If you made it down to the farmers markets this past week, you were most likely pleasantly surprised to see that the fresh cherries you have been waiting for all year have just hit the stands.
Cherries are always a farmers market favorite, with their short seasonal window keeping us yearning for their return all year long. Despite getting a later than usual start this year, crops around the state are looking to be quite abundant and will be readily accessible over the weeks to come
There are dozens of varieties of fresh cherries that hit the local farmers markets from May through June, all with slightly different textures, flavors and colors, but all are amazing in their own ways.
The early season crops that first become available are the Brooks Cherries and the Andy ‘G son Cherries. Both varieties have a deep reddish pigment with a nice firm, crunchy texture. Both varieties tend to be both great eating and baking cherries. Typically, the darker the color, the sweeter the fruit.
The next variety, yielding a very sweet finish, are those delicious Rainier Cherries. These are typically very large, firm and crunchy, possessing a yellow to deep-red variegated marble coloring. This variety tends to soften up a little about two weeks into the season, but the sugars really tend to concentrate.
This variety may also typically have some brown spotting, or slight scuffing, which often indicates high sugar content, not decreased quality.
While cherries are exceptional to eat on their own, they can be incorporated into a salad, used to make flavorful preserves, sauces and syrups, and, of course, incorporated into a host of baked goods.
This week I prepared a simple cherry chutney, which I used to top a crostini with cream cheese and arugula microgreens. This makes for a wonderful seasonal appetizer.
Cherry Chutney Crostini
2 cups pitted fresh cherries.
1 medium sweet onion, diced.
1 red bell pepper, diced.
¼ cup brown sugar.
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.
1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, finely grated.
½ teaspoon ground cumin.
½ teaspoon red chili flakes.
Pinch of salt.
Aged balsamic vinegar.
Add all ingredients (except for the baguette, olive oil, cream cheese and microgreens) to a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until well incorporated. Set aside and refrigerate.
Cut your baguette into rounds, place on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and place in a 400-degree oven for about 7-10 minutes, or until toasted. Spread each round with cream cheese, then top with your cherry chutney, followed by the arugula microgreens.
Finish with a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar.