Sour cherries in Latvia: in the past and now

01 Jan 1970

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Sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) have been known in gardens of Latvia since 17th of century.

Research about eating habits in Straupe (Vidzeme region, Latvia) during medieval times shows that sour cherries were among dishes served on castle’s festive table. Guests were served sour cherries lemonade made Castles own orchard cherries. Since ever sour cherries have been popular food for birds, too. The historical evidence records that in 1675 Lielstraupe castle workmen have been punished as they didn’t guard properly sour cherry orchards from bird attacks and harvest was lost.

Lately with appearing new cherry varieties and other exotic fruit plants in markets unfortunately the traditional historic varieties are now on borderline to be disappeared from orchards in Latvia.

 

 

 

By taking care of ancient sour cherry varieties and cherishing to see them again blossoming in orchards and to be able to enjoy at dinners the Society Slow Food Straupe has recently prepared the booklet “Sour cherries: in the past and now”. It is created by co-working the leading researcher of sour cherries of The Institute of Horticulture Dr.agr. Daina Feldmane, the team of Slow Food Latvia Cook Alliance and Slow Food Straupe activists.

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The booklet “Sour cherries: in the past and now” in 44 pages gives a lot of interesting and useful information on sour cherry history in Latvia, describes ancient sour cherry varieties, gives a professional advice on various methods on reproducing and growing cherry trees and provides tasty sour cherry recipes attractive to prepare both at home kitchen and restaurants.

The Institute of Horticulture of Latvia holds richest collection of sour cherry varieties. Altogether there has been mentioned five main ancient sour cherry varieties: The Low of Latvia, The High of Latvia, the Daugmales Glass, The Zentenes and The Kazdangas. Historically they have adapted for Latvia’s changeable climate during years around.


The Low of Latvia

Mostly small and medium in stature, good cold hardiness, but low resistance to diseases. Fruit pulp and skin are dark red, mainly sour flavor and very juicy fruits. There are been developed variations of this variety varying in size, blossoming time and self-fertilness. Mostly comes ripen in middle of July but some variations of varieties harvest also later.

The High of Latvia

Grows all around Latvia. Developed in different variations with different level of cold hardiness. Medium to high in stature.  It blossoms later than the Low of Latvia. Fruits are small, skin and pulp are dark red.  When full-grown the colour gets almost black. Taste is a bit biter. That’s why they have second name – beer cherry. Self-infertile.

The Daugmales Glass

It is known since 18th of century growing around place called Daugmale, found also in wild. Stature is quite small, cold hardiness is good. Fruits are small till medium size, round and flat. Skin is bright red, pulp is creamy. Fruit looks semi-transparent (glass like). Taste is sweet-sour with bit bitterness. Usually ripening in second half of July. Self-infertile.

The Zentenes

Comes from place called Zentene. Large in stature with very good cold hardiness, buds are fragile to freeze after thaws. Ripening time is a bit later than The Low of Latvia. Fruits are quite large, flat, pit is also large. Skin is dark red, pulp – red. Pleasant, sweet-sour flavour. Suitable for transporting as fruits don’t juice at stalk due its natural “construction”. Self-infertile.

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The Kazdangas

Grows around place Kazdanga since at least 19th century. Large in stature. Before blossoming, buds turn pink. Not so good cold hardiness and lower disease resistance than The Low of Latvia. Fruits are small, flat, round, harvest late in end of July and August. Skin is dark red, almost black, pulp – dark red. Cherries from this region always have been known as perfect for preserving.

Traditional local sour cherries are characterized by its special pleasant tartness and valuable biochemical composition. Sour cherries have wonderful quality to hold their authentic flavour throughout cooking process and this makes sour cherries appealing to chefs. In the booklet “Sour cherries: in the past and now” there are altogether 14 recipes created by Slow Food Latvia Cook Alliance chefs. You will find there recipes for starters, main dishes (both of fish and meat), desserts and sauces where the distinctive flavour of sour cherries has been creatively composed in. Among more familiar dishes as Sour Cherry Crostata, Sour Cherry Sorbet and Doughnuts with Sour Cherries there are also recipes offering more untraditional combinations as Venison Tartare with Sour cherries, Lamb with Smoked Sour Cherries, Dessert of Sour Cherries marinated in peppers as well Chesnut and Cholate mush with Sour Cherries.

Please find here some ideas for starters with sour cherries in English. The whole booklet in Latvian you can view on Slow Food Straupe Market home page  Sour Cherries in the past and now .

The booklet is financed by EU LIFE programme. 

 

Cherries marinated in birch syrup with goat cheese

Recipe by Ēriks Dreibants, Chef of Restaurant 3, 3 Pavāri, Chef Workshop place in Ligatne

 

Ingredients:

200 g fresh goat cheese

200 g sour cherries

50 g birch syrup (can be replaced with maple syrup or reduced balsamico)

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

 

Directions:

  1. Whip a goat cheese til creamy
  2. Pit cherries and put in birch syrup to marinate
  3. Serve marinated cherries and whipped cheese on a plate and grate nutmeg on top. Ready to serve.

 

Beetroots with sour cherries Recipe by Juris Dukalskis, Chef of  Restaurant 3 and Chefs Creative Workshop.

Ingredients:

200 g sour cherries

100 g sugar

4 baby beetroots (size of egg)

2 thyme sprigs

1 rosemary sprig

4 cloves of garlic

50 g olive oil

Black pepper, salt

50 g apple syrup

1 tbls hemp seeds

50 g herb oil

120 g radish ice cream

4 fresh sorrel leaves

Directions:

  1. Pit cherries, add sugar and cook jam.
  2. Peel of beetroots. On baking pan covered with baking paper put beetroots with thyme, rosemary, olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and malted pepper.
  3. Cover with aluminium foil and bake in oven in 200 C temperature about 40 minutes until beetroots are ready.

Serving:

Pour apple syrup over beetroots, sprinkle over hemp seeds and pour over sour cherry jam. Next add  radish ice cream, herb oil and fresh sorrel leaves.

 

Venison tartare with sour cherries Recipe by Ēriks Dreibants, Chef of Restaurant 3, 3 Pavāri, Chefs Creative Workshop.

Ingredients:

300 g venison fillet

1 shallot

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp apple vinegar

Salt, pepper

120 g sour cherries

100 ml olive oil

20 g fresh juniper

200 g marinated chanterelles

Wood sorrels

 

Directions:

  1. Cut the venison and shallot into small pieces and mix together with apple vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Pit cherries and cut in half.
  3. Grind in mixer juniper berries and olive oil (will suffice for several times)
  4. Marinate chanterelles in traditional cucumber marinade.

 

Serving: Put on plate venison tartare, put on top cherries, chanterelles, wood sorrels. Drop juniper oil. Bon Apetit!

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