From bright red to deep purple, cherries have succulent, juicy flesh that can be enjoyed raw or cooked. They grow on trees, and hang on long stalks on branches, in groups of two or three. They look beautiful as a garnish on cakes and dessert recipes.
British cherries are only available for a few short weeks from July to August, but imported cherries are available from May to September.
Sweetness depends on the variety, but most cherries sold are sweet cherries meant for eating raw. Choose plump, firm, evenly-coloured fruit – bright red to dark purple – with fresh-looking stalks.
Wash and remove the stalks if the fruit is to be cooked, and halve and remove the stone if you have time (an efficient cherry stoner makes this very easy). Sweet cherries are a treat just eaten on their own, but are also delicious poached with a little sugar and water or red wine with a cinnamon stick until just softened, then served with ice cream. They bake well in tarts and pies and are a tasty accompaniment to game meats.
Bittersweet Morello cherries are best for cooking, stewed with sugar or made into jam. This makes a perfect partner with chocolate desserts and chocolate cake such as the classic Black Forest gateau.
Keep fresh cherries in the fridge for 3-4 days; cooked cherries freeze well.
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