Nanking Cherries are Here!

IMG_2459We’re nearing the end of July, which can mean only one thing… the nanking cherries have arrived! These delicious berries are often overlooked, but are excellent urban fruit for jellies, juice, syrups, and more. If you were following Getty’s advice this spring, you will have taken note of all the trees with the cute pink blossoms (http://www.fruitshare.ca/2012/04/sakura-cherry-blossom/), go back to those spots now and you’ll likely find oodles of 1/2 inch berries.

If you’ve never picked nanking cherries before, you’re in for a treat. They are edible straight off the tree (watch out for the pit!) and quick to pick (because the branches are often loaded). My harvest this year was mixed with vodka and sugar, in the hopes that it will become a delicious cherry liqueur by christmas time!

Sakura – Cherry Blossom

Aren’t they beautiful!  In established neighbourhoods across the prairies these wonderful pink blossoms are making their appearance.  They’ll only be here for a short time, so enjoy them while you can.  And, if you’re interested in harvesting cherries, make note of their location, because these lovely pink blossoms turn into delicious nanking cherries by the end of July.  But once the leaves come in, they’ll be hard to spot.

 

You’ll often see these 3-5 feet tall bushes as foundation plants or nestled amongst other bushes along property lines.   Like this…

Nanking cherries make the most amazing jelly and juices.  And if you’re really keen, even cherry clafoutis, pies or muffins.

Nanking Cherries

The Nankings are ready.  Just like a lot of plants this year, they’re about 2 or 3 weeks early.
Unfortunately, we haven’t had any come through Fruit Share.  Hopefully that means everyone has found wonderful ways to use them themselves.
We greedily harvested the ones in our own back yard and made juice, syrup and jelly with them.
If you’re wondering what to do with your nankings, here are some ideas.
To get the juice…
To get the pulp…

Of course you don’t need to separate the pulp and the juice.  Usually, I don’t, but this year I was experimenting with my new toy from Lee Valley – the jelly strainer. 
If you don’t separate the pulp from the juice, your jams, jellies and syrups will be thicker and not transparent.  Despite what the jelly judges at a country fair might say, I actually prefer having a little more texture in my spreads.
Before I even got to make any preserves, we found a lot of ways to eat our nankings:
  • raw, right off the bush