By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
It’s cherry season, and the folks at the Northwest Cherry Growers (NCG) association want to squeeze every drop of sweet cassis juice out of the three-month summer harvest.
With Mexico now ranking as the eighth-largest export market for the sweet, fleshy fruits from the northwestern U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana, the association’s representative in Mexico, Juan Carlos Moreira, has been leading a nationwide campaign to get Mexicans to consumer even more cherries this year than the unprecedented 200,000 crates they gobbled down in 2018.
As part of that ongoing campaign, the NCG hosted a cherry foodie cooking class at the Pedini kitchen and showroom in Mexico City’s Colonia San Ángel on Wednesday, July 24.
The idea behind the class was to show that cherries are versatile enough to be included in any number of recipes, from sweet desserts to savory main dishes.
And, with the help of a team of Pedini chefs, that is exactly what it did.
Sure, we all are familiar (or should be) with cherry pie (Marie Callender’s makes a great one, for those like me who are culinarily challenged in the kitchen), and for homespun Julia Childs who want to take their cookery to the next level, there are cherry jams and cherry jellies.
But the NCG class offered some truly original cherry-based recipes, from cherry crème brûlée and cherry Danishes, to cherry and arugula pizza and mushroom and cherry risotto.
Cherries were also mixed with gin and prosecco to create refreshing cocktails to accompany the dishes.
But the use of cherries as a key gastronomic ingredient need not stop there.
The sweet, meaty fruits can also be used in salads to give them a fresh, summery boost, or incorporated into lamb and duck dishes to provide relief from their heavy gamey flavors.
A few cherries on top of warm oatmeal gives a sugary zing and the fruit is ideal for mixing in smoothies and yogurt.
“Cherries are very versatile and fresh cherries can be frozen so that they can be used throughout the year,” said Moreira as he helped stir the risotto on top of massive Pedini stovetop.
“What makes northwestern cherries unique and particularly sweet and flavorful is the fact that they are grown in a climatically ideal setting, along the northern U.S. border, where the weather is warm in the daytime and cold at night.”
The five-state region currently produces 25 million crates of sweet cherries every year, accounting for more than 80 percent of the entire U.S. production.
The biggest export markets for U.S. cherries have traditionally been Asian, but recent increased tariffs imposed by China as a result of a simmering trade war with the United States have forced the more than 2,000 northwest cherry farmers to explore new markets.
Cherries are rich in vitamin C and fiber, and have been accredited with having anti-inflammatory properties.
Cherries have also been linked to bone health and are believed to help jumpstart the body’s natural immune system.
By the same token, they are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps in the body’s sleep cycle.