Finally a chance for a decent bit of urban foraging! This week I spotted a cherry tree in a local car park, literally dripping with jewel red cherries. We picked and feasted on a few the other night and today I went back with Ruby, armed with a basket.
Unusually for me, I decided to do the proper thing and I sought out the Duty Manager of the facility to ask permission - to be fair I probably wouldn't have bothered if I were on my own or was there at a quiet time, but this was the middle of the afternoon with lots of people coming and going and I couldn't face the humiliation of being told off at a place we frequent on a weekly basis!
Well, what a palaver! Clearly he was on health and safety over-drive and tried telling me they weren't edible (they are); they weren't ripe yet (they are falling off the tree); they don't taste nice (they do!), and finally they don't recommend it. What does that mean??! It was obvious he didn't want to leave his company open to tree climbing injuries or poisoning litigation, so finally I asked the easy question: if I pick them will I get told off and asked to leave? 'No' came the answer. Well, glad we got to the bottom of that!
As with any foraging, make sure of your identification first. As far as I know, the ripe fruit of all versions of the cherry tree are edible, although some will be much sharper than others.
In a very short time, we'd harvested a good basketful, scooping up the undamaged ones from the ground and pulling pairs on stalks from the tree, sticky red juice running down our arms.
Other mums and their kids stopped as they were passing, and intrigued, took a few and popped them into their mouths. I love that! They'd never even noticed the tree before.
Home we went and I rinsed them off in cold water and started the task of de-stoning them. It's a pain, but it's worth it. I'd recommend investing in an olive stoner (this is an affiliate link, should you click to purchase I will earn a few pennies - just so we're clear!) - I use mine loads, for hedge plums and greengages as well as cherries and olives.
Once they're de-stoned you can then juice them, make jam (recipes coming soon) or make this delicious French dessert. It's very simple, and aside from the cherries, you'll probably have all the ingredients in your fridge and store cupboard. I adapt the recipe to use lactose-free products so Ruby can enjoy it with us.
You will need: (serves 4)
- 2 eggs
- 80g plain flour
- 80g butter melted and cooled (I used liquid Stork)
- 150 ml milk (I used Lacto-free whole milk)
- 60g caster sugar
- drop of good quality vanilla essence
- 20g butter (I used the Lacto-free spreadable butter)
- 200g ripe cherries, stoned Icing sugar to finish
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
Lightly beat the eggs, then add the flour and milk and beat with an electric whisk, add the caster sugar, vanilla and liquid butter and continue to whisk until you have a smooth lump-free batter.
Use about half of the solid butter to generously grease a shallow ovenproof gratin dish (or similar shallow dish). Add your cherries to the dish and spread out evenly.
Pour the batter over and place in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn down to 180 and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove briefly from oven and dot the remainder of the butter here and there on the top before returning to the oven for a further 5 minutes or so until cooked through. You can check it's done by inserting a skewer into the middle - if it comes out clean it's cooked.
Allow to cool for around 10 minutes before dusting with icing sugar.
Serve warm with cream or ice cream. We had it for pud today and Ruby said she liked it as much as our house is tall - not bad compliment eh? It's also delicious cold, the next day as a cake slice in the lunchbox.
Have you spotted any cherry trees near you? What's your favourite cherry recipe? Got any you'd like me to write about?