In season: cherries

In New Zealand cherries are synonymous with Christmas. They arrive from Central Otago in their cardboard boxes, looking like festive gifts, the fruit itself just like Christmas baubles. Except far tastier.

They are most definitely a treat. With a retail price generally close to $20 per kilo, buying cherries is out of the reach of many, but I think they’re worth every penny.

How good are cherries for you?

I’m focusing on sweet cherries here. Tart cherries are equally amazing, but I haven’t seen them fresh in New Zealand, and since this series is about what’s in season (and available fresh)…

Once again, the colour is the giveaway with deep red cherries. They’re high in antioxidants, which have cancer preventative properties. As they ripen, the colour darkens, producing more antioxidants, so they get better with age. Alongside that:

  • They’re high in potassium, which helps to control blood pressure.
  • They’re packed with polyphenols, which aid our digestive bacteria (and which I harp on about endlessly).
  • The anthocyanins in cherries have anti-inflammatory properties, to offer health benefits for gout, arthritis, fibromyaglia and sports injuries
  • They’re high in melatonin, which regulates circadian rhythms and sleep patterns.
  • They’re high in fibre, and low calories. Their sugar content is high, but this is offset by the fibre.
  • They’re high in vitamin C, which aids in the formation of collagen, and helps the body absorb iron.

So how can I use them?

I have to say, you’re in a very fortunate position if you have a glut of cherries at your disposal. At the price they’re currently selling for, I’m buying them in small quantities and eating them as is!

That said, not everyone lives as far from Cherry Central as I do, so here’s a few thoughts on how to handle your fortuitous excess:

  • Make a trifle with layers of sponge, cherry jam, fresh, stoned cherries, custard and cream. Drizzle kirsh over the sponge if desired.
  • Make a cherry compote by cooking stoned cherries with some sugar (at a ratio of about 5 to 1 by weight, cherries to sugar), lemon juice and kirsh or brandy. Remove the cherries and reduce the juice until thick.
  • Steep stoned cherries in brandy or vodka for a week or so to make a delicious liqueur.
  • Make a Black Forest Eton Mess by mixing together whipped cream, crumbled meringues, chopped dark chocolate and fresh cherries.
  • Make a Black Forest gateaux, by drizzling kirsh over your favourite dark chocolate cake, and layering with halved, stoned cherries and cream. Google images to find true 1970’s cake decoration inspiration!
  •  Add cherries to a red wine, beef jus. Cook until the cherries are soft, and serve with duck, venison or beef.
  • Melt vanilla ice cream until very soft (not liquid), and stir through stoned, chopped cherries, slivered almonds and chopped dark chocolate. Return to the freezer to reset, then serve.
  • Make a salsa with cherries
  • Halve cherries and toss through a green salad

Or try this cherry cheesecake recipe:


125 g crumbled malt biscuits
75 g butter, softened
300 g cream cheese
60 g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp lemon juice
250 ml cream, whipped
500 g fresh cherries, halved and stones removed
100 g sugar
100 ml vodka
100 ml lemon juice
250 ml cream, whipped to serve

  1. Line a 20cm springform baking tin with tinfoil.
  2. Put the biscuits and butter in a food processor and pulse until well combined
  3. Press the biscuit mixture into the bottom of the tin. Put into the fridge to set (approx 20 minutes)
  4. Using the food processor again, pulse together cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract and lemon juice until well combined and smooth
  5. Transfer to a bowl, and fold through whipped cream.
  6. Pour cheese mixture over the biscuit mix, and return to the fridge to set (approximately 3 hours or overnight)
  7. Put the cherries in a saucepan with the sugar, vodka and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cook until cherries are beginning to soften.
  8. Remove cherries with a slotted spoon and set aside. Continue to boil juices until thick.
  9. Cool and add cherries back to the pan. Refrigerate until needed.
  10. To prepare the cheesecake to serve, remove the cake from the tin. Top with extra whipped cream and cherry compote. Garnish with a few fresh cherries and serve.


Source:,, Best Health Magazine, Nigella Lawson, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, Al Brown, Peta Mathias, Kylee Newton,


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