100 Glossy Plump Days - It's Cherry Season! – Mercato

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100 Glossy Plump Days - It's Cherry Season!

Cherries are fruits,

And berries are fruits.

But cherries are not berries, OK?

I’m glad we got that out of the way.


Cherries are synonymous with Australian Summer, family time, our agriculture and as a versatile and quintessential part of recipes at this time of year.

Growing up in Tasmania meant we would go to the nearest berry and fruit farm every year to pick our own and leave with ice-cream buckets over-filled with cherries to last all summer. Waxy and almost fake looking in their perfection, these shiny sweet mouthfuls burst with flavour; and even though I lost a baby tooth to a pit in my over-exuberance, I do not hold a grudge. Over Summer, a bowl of cherries always adorned our kitchen bench and was present at every BBQ and Christmas celebration. My mother would add cherries to our turkey stuffing and they always looked so regal atop the ever sweet and festive pavlova.

Scenes of families picking together, or pulling over to buy from local farmers at the side of the road, play out annually, primarily in the eastern states of Australia. And just like entering the supermarket and being met with hot cross buns to signify Easter is approaching; or Panettone to know it’s nearly Christmas; when you walk in and are met with piles of bags of round ruby cherries, you know that summer is *finally* here!


In the Land of Dirt by Sea

Starting in October and November, depending on the harvest and how kind the weather has been – don’t worry, I won’t start raging about climate change here – harvesting in Australia can go all the way through to February. With the majority taking place in December and January, cherries are at their peak and in our homes for Christmas and New Years celebrations, making them part of the fabric of our family celebrations and new beginnings. The window of opportunity to enjoy cherries lasts for approximately 100 glorious days.

The six cherry growing states in Australia are Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. With the wide range of climates in these states, our stone fruit seasons can last longer than in less climatically diverse countries, making our access to the goodness of cherries even longer (which is all the more sweeter!)

We’ve been harvesting cherries in Australia since the late 1800s, beginning in Young in New South Wales. Historically, however, cherries have been a food source for humans since the Stone Age, with the Romans harnessing crops around 70BC. So if anyone ever asks (Monty Python style) “What have the Romans ever done for us?”, you’ll know it’s not just the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, education, medicine and wine… it’s also the beginnings of cherry harvesting!


From the Top of ‘The Boot’ to the Toe

Veneto, in the North, is the only area in the country where the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) mark exists for cherries. The medieval town Marostica in Veneto is surrounded by cherry orchards and known for producing large and sweet varieties. The annual two-week market in the town square is a celebration of the achievement of local growers and has become an attraction for people to visit at that time of year. Just like I did as a child in Tasmania, children and families in Italy congregate to pick their own cherries and enjoy them by the bucket load.

In the South, Puglia is the centre of Cherries, especially in Turi and Bisceglie. Primarily known for Olive Oil production and being a DOC Wine area, cherries are cherished here and have also become a big import for the area, as they keep their peak freshness for over a week (longer than most varieties). Bisceglie’s Cherry Festival is set to a backdrop of lush green countryside and azure blue coast. The colour sensation which is added with the rich ruby gold cherries is really a sight to see. Picking, history, culture and flavour come together at this time around the little red heart of the city: the cherry.


Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash


Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour
– William Cowper, 1785

There are over 80 different varieties of cherries grown in Australia. Seems like a lot yes? Well, worldwide, there are about 900 sweet, and 300 sour varieties of cherries. Boom. I bet you were not expecting THAT MUCH variety! Each type of cherry carries its own unique properties owing to the soil, temperature, harvesting techniques and conditions which can change year on year.


Cooking with Heart

If you’re going all out with a cherry recipe, invest in a cherry pitter. It will save you oodles of time (and mess) and can be picked up from kitchenware stores.

Pair your cherries with complimentary flavours. Other fruits which mix well are sweet and juicy, like peaches, mangoes and plums. In the diary aisle, I’d recommend soft cheese and cream. My favourite desserts with cherries almost always include some form of chocolate, coconut and/or pastry. If you’re going a savoury route; try with turkey, ham or a good nut mix!


Mercato’s Cherry Picks

Wanting to ‘pop a cherry’ (but actually just spread it) on your toast? Try Orto D’Autore 100% black cherry spread. With only natural sugars and using whole and crushed fruit, this spread will up your morning game and be a true celebration of the tastes of summer!


For something a little more decadent, Bodrato Boeri Cherries are an after-dinner special moment for your mouth. Using only the best Italian cherries soaked in liqueur and covered in layers and layers of dark chocolate, these rich mouthfuls give you both a sweet and bitter culinary experience and are a great way to enjoy a gorgeous cherry!



Sara Best

Traveller of Places, Lover of Wine, Eater of Food, Teller of Stories

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