Scott Paton, head chef of Àclèaf in Plymouth, reveals a few tips on how to prepare and serve wild cherries at home
More sour and less sweet than the farmed varieties, wild cherries work brilliantly in both sweet and savoury dishes and will add a pop of colour to the plate.
How to source wild cherries
Wild cherry trees are common across the South West and can be found in woodlands, hedgerows and parks. The fruit are usually ready to pick in mid May and can be harvested until the end of June. When ripe, they’ll be deep red in colour and look plump, juicy and good enough to eat.
If you can’t find a local tree, wild cherries can sometimes be found in farm shops.
How to prep wild cherries
Wash the cherries under cold water and remove the stones (they’re poisonous).
The flowers, which start to appear in March, can be picked, washed and used to make cherry blossom vinegar. We have a cherry tree in the grounds of Boringdon Hall but it’s so old we can’t reach the fruit. Instead, we use the blossoms to flavour vinegar.
How to serve wild cherries
I love using these cherries in savoury dishes and my go-to pairing is duck. This spring at Àclèaf, we’ll serve pan-fried duck breast with a cherry sauce, which will be fi nished with our own blossom vinegar.
When cherries are in season I’ll often preserve them by steeping the pitted fruit in a lightly salted solution. The saltiness adds an interesting contrast to their natural sourness, and preserving them means I can use them in dishes throughout the year.
Of course, cherries are also fantastic in desserts. I’d recommend distilling their flavour by making a compote and using it as the filling for a cherry pie or as an accompaniment to creamy puddings such as vanilla pannacotta. Lean into the late spring vibe by adding freshly foraged elderflower to the compote.