The earliest recorded mention of cherries occurs in Enquiry into Plants by Theophrastus, written in 300 BC. Later, cherries were included in Roman soldiers' rations and, as the men discarded the stones on their travels, cherry trees began to spring up throughout Europe.
There are around 1000 sweet and sour cherry varieties. A single tree can produce up to 7000 cherries, so mechanical shakers were invented to shake the fruit from the trees. Glacé cherries are stoned cherries that have been soaked in concentrated sugar syrup to candy them. They are artificially coloured to replace the natural colour which is lost during processing.
• Get the kids to make this easy '1 cup each' cherry cobbler. Preheat oven to 180°C. In a bowl combine 1 cup self-raising flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps. Add 100g melted butter, ½ tsp mixed spice and 1 cup pitted, halved cherries. Pour into a greased baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.
• A pretty, fresh cherry salsa goes with all grilled or barbecued meats. Chop 1 cup pitted cherries, add 1 Tbsp finely chopped red onion, a handful freshly chopped basil, a splash balsamic vinegar and a little sugar to taste.
How to pit cherries
Place cherry, stalk pointing up, over the open top of an empty beer bottle. Poke a chopstick down through the top of the cherry; this will push the stone out of the cherry and into the bottle. Wear an apron as the juice may splatter.
One pomegranate provides 40 percent of your daily vitamin C, and the juice is a more potent source of antioxidants than acai or even blueberry juice. The skin of a ripe pomegranate is dark red, leathery and bumpy and the inside should be full of jewel-like 'arils'. Each aril contains tart, sweet juice and a small, white, crunchy seed. The whole aril is edible but the white pith is bitter.
How to juice a pomegranate
To juice a pomegranate, slice in half horizontally and use a hand press juicer to press out juice. To remove arils, roll fruit on the bench to loosen them, then cut in half horizontally.
Stick a fork in the skin of one half and knock it on the side of a deep bowl or thwack it on top with a wooden spoon. (Alternatively, slice off crown, then make four cuts, evenly spaced, from top to bottom; cut through skin but not into the fruit. Over a bowl of water, gently pull the four sections apart and push seeds into water. The pith floats and the arils sink. Remove pith and strain.) The arils can be frozen.
For a fast foodie gift, whip up a couple of jars of pomegranate & strawberry syrup. This delicious sauce is lovely on scones, ice cream or meringue, swirled into yoghurt or drizzled onto waffles. Neither pomegranates nor strawberries contain sufficient pectin to set, so this sauce is looser than jam despite using jam-setting sugar.
• In a large pan mash 1 cup quartered strawberries. Add 2 cups pure pomegranate juice and 500g jam-setting sugar. Heat over a low heat until sugar has completely dissolved then add a knob butter, bring to a rolling boil and boil for exactly 4 minutes. Bottle in sterilised jam jars or bottles and seal with sterilised lids.
• Cool off and unwind with a chilled glass of pomegranate sangria. In a large jug combine 1 bottle red wine (merlot works well), 1 cup pure pomegranate juice, ⅓ cup cognac (or brandy), arils from 1 pomegranate, 1 litre lemonade and ¼ cup sugar. Serve chilled with a sprig mint.