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The Jerte cherry, juicy and crisp

Wiki Spanish Food editorial team

The Cereza de Jerte (Jerte cherry) Protected Designation of Origin was created in 1995 to officially recognize the fruit's quality and to distinguish it from cherries from other parts of Spain and the rest of the world.

The Jerte cherry is a native (and, until recently, exclusive) variety of the Jerte Valley, in the province of Extremadura, whose terrain and microclimate give rise to a fruit with flavor, a crisp texture and a unique characteristic (most do not have a peduncle, so they are generally known as picota cherries) which ensure its standing as the best cherry in the market. Despite its short season, it is an exceptional product with which to cook.

North of Cáceres province

The Jerte cherry production area is in the north of Cáceres province, in the mountain farming area of Trasierra-Gredos Sur.This region, which has very specific and homogeneous geographical, physical, historical and cultural characteristics, comprises the towns in the Jerte Valley area, including La Vera and Ambroz Valley.

Only the following varieties are protected by the DO: Navalinda, Burrita and Van (all three with peduncles), and Ambrunés, Pico Limón Negro, Pico Negro and Pico Colorado (all without peduncles). Broadly speaking, their flesh is juicy and crunchy and of varying color depending on the variety,from red flesh and juice to yellow or cream-colored flesh and transparent juice.

The firmness of the pulp is important for determining its quality, since it reveals if the cherry was picked at the right time. Flavor is the main distinguishing feature of these cherries, attributable to their high sugar content and the balance between sweetness and acidity.

There are studies by various treatise writers which maintain that cherry production in the Jerte Valley dates back to the Arab age. It is currently Spain's largest production zone.

In the 16th century, famous Spanish doctor Luis de Torospoke about Jerte Valley cherries and highlighted them for their size, color and flavor, saying: “You will also see every class of cherry, such that not even Persia can better. Cherries of extraordinary taste and size, red, black and of an intermediate color similar to wine.”

Cherries in gastronomy

Today, most consumersautomatically associate"Jerte" with cherries. Picota cherries, which are stemless, are especially excellent, and their quality is impacted by various environmental factors such as the humidity index (which is high even in summer), valley breezes, direction, average annual hours of sunshine, altitude, microclimate, and healthy soil acidity.

On today's culinary scene, award-winning chef Toño Pérez (ATRIO restaurant, in Cáceres), uses cherries to complement dishes such as Ibérico pork, to which it adds a sweet and sour flavor, and also in other recipes with game, in a sugar coating, and in sauces. During peak season, he includes it in soups and gazpacho, as the combination with high-quality local tomatoes is truly superb.

Dani García, now at his new DANI GARCÍA RESTAURANT, at Hotel Puente Romano in Marbella, usually makes a refreshing cherry gazpacho with fresh cheese and anchovies.

Jerte cherries pair perfectly with vinos de la tierra (mid-level regional wines without DO status), especially with those from Tierra de Barros (Badajoz), where wines with extraordinary character are being produced to accompany recipes using game and pork.

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