Cherries in Spain
by The Tapas Lunch Company
From the TLC Blog
All around me right now Spain is celebrating the cherry. The markets and supermarkets are already selling them and there is even a fiesta or two to commemorate the cherry.
Now I confess I have never been a fan. They don't do it for me, at least not on their own. With ice cream, certainly , and accompanying other dishes, possibly. But, believe me, I am in a minority in Spain.
The Spanish love their cherries or, as they know them, the cereza. The country is the second largest producer of cherries in Europe.
Cherries are grown in vast quantities in the Jerte Valley, south west of Madrid. There is even a cherry museum at Caceres in Extremedura.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Spain, in the Ebro Valley, Catalonia the short cherry season is celebrated with a fiesta on the second Sunday in June. It takes place in the town of Miravet. Local growers show off their cherries in the central plaza. If you ever thought a cherry was, well, a cherry; you'd be wrong. There are so very many varieties grown and on display.
The Alicante region of Valencia also produces superb cherries. Last year cherries from there were exported as far away as Lithuania. This year they intend to export them to Latin America. Marcos Simón is President of the Committee for the Origin Denomination "Montaña de Alicante." He explains why so many people love the fruit: "Cherries sell very well. They have a very pleasant visual impact and even children, who sometimes don't react that well to fruit, love them."
Last year Harrods and the UK high street supermarket Tesco got in a fight over Spanish cherries. Tesco believed it had exclusive rights to sell the so called glamour cherry produced in April by Oscar Ortiz, a Spanish farmer who grows the fruit in a huge greenhouse near Lérida in north-east Spain. Ortiz is the only farmer growing this type of cherry and it is the only one available as early as April anywhere in the world. Harrods were also selling the unique cherry from Catalonia. Ortiz says: "This is a quality cherry in shine, colour and sugar and has readily found favour with consumers. We hope to double output in the next few years following investment in protected cropping."
Cherries are expensive. When i see the price of them in Spain I am often thankful I do not like them. But i see them being bought readily at both my local weekly food market and in the supermarkets. Cherry aficionados assure me that once you begin eating them, it is very hard to stop. Once picked cherries do not ripen. But once they are ripe, they do bruise easily. The main Picota crop of cherries appear now, in June, and represent big business for the companies who export them to the UK and elsewhere. It is anticipated that approaching 100.000 cherries will be cultivated in Spain this year.
I keep being told that cherries are good for you. They are rich in carbohydrates and contain large amounts of fibre. They also have a high level of vitamins A and C.
For that reason alone, I must learn to love the cherry.