I love cherries and growing up on the boarders of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire they were very much part of my childhood summers. There was the White Heart tree at Babylon Farm at Gorsley producing chip basketsful of pale peaches and cream coloured cherries. Then there were the little brown paper bags of dark blood red fruit oozing with juice bought with my pocket money on school outings. Today I look forward to the appearance of all the local fruit as the summer months come and go but cherries are still my favourites.
It was therefore quite a wake up call to hear that this luscious fruit is under threat from cheap foreign imports; not just here in the county but nationwide.
Help is at hand in the form of Cherry Aid, to be launched at the Real Food Festival at Earl’s Court in London on 24 April. It is spearheaded by Henrietta Green and supported my some of the country’s top chefs and will bring together consumers, cherry growers, and producers of cherry-based delights in what if hope will be a fruitful fight for survival. As the resource for the campaign, FoodLoversBritain.com will be packed with ways in which we all can do our part to help save the glorious cherry. The campaign will culminate in British Cherry Day on 19 July.
Plump, ripe and juicy, the British cherry is a burst of home-grown sunshine but sadly, this heavenly little fruit is in a pickle. Since their introduction by the Romans in the first century AD, our cherry orchards have survived wars, floods and droughts; now they are being destroyed at the hand of unfavorable economics.
It is sad to say that most of the frothy cherry trees (aptly described so by screen writer, Dennis Potter) that once blossomed across the country have been grubbed up. Figures for the decimation vary but one estimate is that the area under orchard in Kent alone has shrunk by a massive 85% in the past fifty years. With the market flooded by ever cheaper foreign imports, the few remaining local commercial growers are being forced to consider if their orchards can survive.
The value of traditional and heritage varieties to our landscape, culture and local livelihoods is at last being recognized. Backing up the old guard, new varieties have been developed to be more resilient to our climate, mature more quickly and grow on smaller trees that are easier to harvest. These factors promise a plentiful and stable domestic supply but only with our help.
FoodLoversBritain.com would especially love to hear from people who:
Sell British cherries.
Produce or sell food or drink made from British grown cherries.
Own a cherry orchard in which visitors can taste and buy cherries; can sponsor a tree; or can enjoy a picnic under the trees.
Will be featuring locally-grown cherry dishes on their summer menu.
Organise a competition for the best cherry pie, cherry jam, cherry wine or other British-cherry-based goodies.
Have any other suggestions for how to support one of our great natural treasures.
Those wanting to sign up for action should contact Jo Dodsley at FoodLovers Britain firstname.lastname@example.org; or you can nominate a business in the Food Finds section at FoodLoversBritain.com.