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Ripe and Delicious Portuguese Cherries!

Portuguese CherriesWhen I was a child, I coveted anything flavored “cherry”. From the sweet artificial flavor of a Starburst candy to the ripe, succulent berry itself, it was by far my absolute favorite fruit….that is until I moved to Barcelona.

Barcelona evoked a deep passion for sweet mandarines, juicy strawberries, crisp apples and meaty melons, while cherries never quite took center stage, despite their ample harvest in both Andalusia and Extramadura. Sure, the Picota cherries were ubiquitous at this time of the year, and insanely delicious, but their presence in Barcelona seemed rather laissez-faire.

Porto, on the other hand, is bursting with cherries! Maybe it’s because berries are so rare and stupidly expensive that I’m overwhelmed by their presence. Maybe it’s because I’ve been dying for small round fruits bursting with flavor. Maybe it’s because we stumbled across a grandmothers selling mind-blowingly tasty cherries in the Douro this past weekend. Whatever the reason, I’m suggesting you pick them up!!!

Portugal produces an average of twelve thousand tons per year, while fifty percent come from the Beira Interior region, located just southeast of Porto. Grown across Serras da Gardunha, Estrela and Malcata, the Cova da Beira cherry is one of the iconic symbols of the Central region, not to mention a staple in their economy. Succulent and sweet, the Cova da Beira cherry is characterized by its intense colors ranging from bright red to a dark purple-red.

Cherries are rich in potassium, vitamin C, fibre and flavoniods, not to mention antioxidants, but quite honestly, we don’t care. We only care that they taste absolutely amazing and can be found in heaps alongside any country road in Portugal, in tarts and jams, and of course, fortified beverages such as Ginja.

The harvest generally begins in mid Spring and runs through mid Summer, and celebrated by several hotels and restaurants throughout Portugal. Hence, if you encounter a squat apron clad Portuguese grandmother this summer selling crates overflowing with cherries, make sure to pick up a few…..dozen boxes!

Let us know what you like to do with cherries! Any killer recipes? Favorite preserves? We want to know!! Add them to the comments below, and we very well might feature them in a future article!

Gabriella Opaz