Few things give more satisfaction than biting into a plump, juicy cherry, the skin such a deep garnet colour that it almost appears to be black. Stems and pits are easily discarded as you reach into the bowl, each time telling yourself, “I’ll just have one more…”
Used to make ice creams, jams, and sour cherry pies, the growing season for cherries is all too short. Depending on which region in the northern hemisphere, the season can peak anytime in the summer months between May and August. In Australia and New Zealand cherries are associated with the Christmas season as they reach their peak in December.
To draw out the pleasure that cherries bring you must enjoy them from the moment the trees are in bloom. In springtime in Japan the delicate fragrance of the pastel-coloured blossoms perfumes the air while many Japanese take part in the custom of hanami – enjoying picnics under the blooming trees, and attending hanami festivals to celebrate the beauty of the blossoms.
Many of the varieties cultivated in Japan are for ornamental use only and do not produce fruit, but that doesn’t mean the blossoms are without culinary importance. Wagashi, a type of traditional Japanese confectionary, is often enhanced with the flavour of cherry blossom. One particular variety, sakuramochi, is made of a sweet pink rice cake, red bean paste, and is wrapped in an edible cherry tree leaf.
Whether you are sitting under a cloud of fragrant cherry blossoms or in an orchard plucking the ripe fruit directly from the tree, cherry season gives us all something to enjoy.