The arrival of summer has been announced with the first offerings of Marlborough cherries.
This is what I wait for for 10 months of the year, the first taste, the first bite into tangy, sweet, tart, juicy, vibrant sunshine-collecting fruit from the trees in our region.
There are temptations throughout the year to eat imported cherries, but my will is strong and my bank balance even healthier. Life has become so homogenised and commercialised that the simple pleasure of regionally grown ripe fruit is more valuable than anything else.
When I was younger I used to pick cherries for summer spending money. I always remember climbing the ladders, hanging from branches and trying to beat the birds to the crimson fruits, often arriving home with stained clothing and tongue, as there was just as much time spent eating them as there was picking.
While we were brought up in the apple, pear and cherry land of Motueka, I have continued to enjoy the experiences where ever we may have been around the world - often daydreaming about the long, warm days and cooler evenings at the top of the South.
When growing up surrounded by horticulture you learn that you are controlled by many factors: October and November are the leanest months of the year but also the tastiest as new season produce comes to life the first globe artichokes, the greenest of greenest broad beans and the first flushes of summer fruit in cherries and strawberries. This is the awakening, the rewards of careful nurturing during the cooler months of the year and while other summer vegetables have not started to produce, we are presented with some of the most vibrant colours of the year.
To eat seasonally is to appreciate what we have, what has survived the journey of frosts, hail, cold snaps and blustering winds. To eat seasonally is to enjoy what you have in front of you and be thankful that we are able to sustain and nurture, unlike many other parts of the world.
My father used to torture us children with sago. At the time it looked like frogs' eggs and after cooking sago for 300 people visiting our region recently, it still looks like frogs' eggs! By adding cherries to it you make it into a vibrant summer pudding. This is a classic from Australian chef Stephanie Alexander's mum who, much like my father, used unusual ingredients way before any Masterchef cooking programmes.
CHERRIES AND SAGO
2 tablespoons of sago
½ cup sugar
400ml of water (or red wine for the adult version)
½ cinnamon stick
500g cherries, stems removed but stones in Gently simmer the sago with sugar and water (wine) and cinnamon, stirring until sago is transparent.
Add cherries, cover and gently simmer for five to eight minutes until the cherries are tender and the juice is pink. Tip into a pudding basin and chill.
Serve with natural yoghurt and a dusting of icing sugar.
- The Marlborough Express