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Rediscovering a versatile but almost
unknown fruit

Not many people know that those beautiful scarlet cornel cherries are edible. They’re also very healthy and they add something a little different to your autumn recipes. Cornel cherries are slightly sour, so not suitable for eating raw, but you can stew them, bake with them and use them to make jam, juice or liqueur. For a delicious jam with a beautiful colour, combine cornel cherries with pears, apples or elderberries. Or use them to make a sweet-sour sauce for game. Unripe cornel cherries can be used to make “mock olives” – marinated in salt water with bay leaves and fennel seeds, they soften and lose their bitter taste.

Origin and health benefits

The cornel cherry (Cornus mas) came originally from Central and Southern Europe and Western Asia. Despite the name it’s not related to true cherry trees. The cornel cherry can grow four to six metres tall, forming a large shrub or a small tree. It prefers chalky soils and grows in gardens, in light woodland or in hedgerows. Because it flowers very early in spring, it’s important as a source of nectar and pollen for some insects. The oval, red fruits ripen in late summer. They are eaten by birds, which helps to spread the plant far and wide. The flesh contains many substances that are good for you, including potassium, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron.

Harvest and storage

On the tree, cornel cherries generally ripen over a period of four or five weeks. So to harvest them, you need to shake the tree several times during this period and collect the fruits that fall off. You can also pick nearly-ripe fruit, which will ripen over one or two days if you keep them at room temperature. It’s very hard to remove the stones from raw cornel cherries, but once they’re cooked, it’s easier to remove the stone.

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de