For its deep red colour, firm texture, juiciness, sweetness and roundness, we should all wait patiently for that elusive summer moment that heralds the British cherry.
The history of British orchard farming has been marked with many a dark hour. In the last fifty years it is estimated that over 90% of all British cherry orchards have been eliminated to make way for the imperatives of modern, commercial agri-business. During the early 1990’s there were approximately 1750 acres of southern and western England covered in cherry trees, and now that figure has dwindled to 750 acres.
It is ironic that the Romans brought the first cherry trees to be cultivated in this nordic isle from Persia in the 1st Century A.D. Milennia later, we see that the sunny, warm climes of Southern Europe have led to 95% of cherries sold in the shops in Great Britain not being harvested from British trees. During the Second World War many cherry orchards in Britain were felled, as the land was urgently needed to grow food. When Britain joined the EU, the importation of all orchard fruits sounded the death knoll for Britain’s orchards.
During July and August, for a very small number of weeks, the succulent, tasty, shiny Penny, Sweetheart, Morello, Elton Hearts and Sun Burst British cherries (to name but a few) are there for us all to enjoy. Slow Food UK should include Kent cherry orchards in its Ark of Taste Presidia, along with existing products: oysters, cheddar and perry, which is a type of cider made from pears.
There are many reasons to feel upbeat about the cultivation of British cherries. Farmers are now using dwarfing cherry rootstock grown trees, which can be covered more easily during heavy rainstorms, or protected from bird attacks. The smaller trees are grown in serried ranks under netting, and are much more manageable to cultivate, prune and harvest. The British climate, with its long autumns for bud growths, cold winters and rainy springs are absolutely perfect for growing healthy, high cropping cherry trees.
At Henrietta Green’s website, www.foodloversbritain.com there is plenty of cherry campaigning cheer to be had. In the website you can read about the rally of support across the nation for this delicious fruit. 16th July 2011 is National Cherry Day, and there will be Foodlovers’ cherry baking events, cherry tree planting and a whole myriad of activities for the whole nation to celebrate and support this most special of fruits. Make sure you go into the website to see how you can take part.