I love collecting wild food. It involves much effort, sometimes disappointment and now and again bodily injury. Despite this there is such thrill in collecting a feed from something that most people pass by without considering.
Often wild food is more intensely flavoured than its cultivated cousins, and its existence and location revealed like secret clues on a treasure map.
So it is with wild cherries in North Canterbury.
We’ve got really good at noticing tree families at 100km per hour. Plums, apples, walnuts and other stone fruit can now all be spotted at reasonable speed. Family trips anywhere take way longer than they should, and there is always a basket in the boot –just in case. Family foraging is a big part of our lives!
We’d been told about the cherries by a few local foraging legends- Kate and Mel, as well as friend Michael Voumard. They’d been explained as a type of wild, sour cherry. I think in my head that was enough to put me off. Until this season.
A lead on an actual location was enough, and on our way to friends’ place for dinner we took some time to find the little stand or wild orchard.
They were just astonishing, totally unfound by the birds and perfectly delicious. They were much smaller than cultivated cherries but also much more flavoursome. An almost almond tang, lovely sweetness and slight bitterness, they have a ‘cherriness’ to the power of three.
I can find no history of how the trees came to be in North Canterbury, but they definitely seem to be Prunus Cerasus, also known as Morello or Sour Cherry.
We shared our first stash with friends Sophie and Jean-Yves, and their little girl Manon. Manon and I gave Prunus Cerasus its new common name ‘Fairies Cherries’. They are for all intents and purposes just like the cherries you find in markets and shops, but in miniature.
We’ve been back to our stand a couple of times now, the last trip yielded enough for this breakfast recipe shared with friends visiting The Food Farm from San Francisco recently.
Pancakes with Fresh Raspberries, Cream and Wild Cherry Sauce.
1 cup milk
You can double, triple and so on this recipe depending on the amount of people. The above is enough for 2 hungry breakfasters.
Whisk milk into the flour and then add the egg. Whisk again and let the batter sit awhile. The longer you leave it the smoother it will become.
Heat cherries with the smallest amount of water for the minimum amount of time to get them to collapse (putting the lid on the saucepan helps). Then strain through a colander to remove the seeds.
Stack whipped cream and fresh raspberries on top of a pancake and then add another- 2 or 3 pancake maximum. Then drizzle liberally with the intense wild cherry sauce. No sugar needed!