FoodLoversBritain.com is running a CherryAid campaign and organising a National Cherry Day.
Cherries have always been a little bit exotic to Britain. The Romans first brought them to these shores – it was said that you could tell the route of an old Roman road by following the lines of cherry trees that grew where Roman soldiers had spat out their wild cherry stones to either side. But they had died out by the Middle Ages. Then Henry VIII of England visited Flanders, tasted cherries there, decided he liked the taste and ordered his gardener to plant them in Kent.
They’re a popular fruit, and a healthy one, too – they have a very high anthocyanin content. Anthocyanins are the red berry pigment responsible for all those stains you associate with cherries, but they’re powerful antioxidants (with all the associated health benefits) and have also been found to relieve pain in rats.
But cherries aren’t that easy to grow in the UK and have largely been abandoned by farmers in search of easier profits. As a result, in the last 50 years the total area given over to cherry cultivation has shrunk to about 10% of what it was – and 95% of cherries sold in Britain are imported.
This is a pretty unsatisfactory state of affairs, especially when there’s so much pressure from the environmental lobby to source food close to home and save all those thousands of food miles. (The counter-argument from the producers is that if we don’t eat their cherries, a lot of people in developing countries will lose their jobs. But that’s a debate for another occasion.)
Anyway, last year FoodLoversBritain.com came to the rescue with CherryAid – a movement intended to raise the profile of British cherries and “help [Britain's cherry industry] out of a jam”!
The first National Cherry Day was held last year and included various activities and features, including recipes by Gordon Ramsay. It was a success and is being repeated this year, with dozens of events beginning on Thursday 16 July and running up to National Cherry Day on Saturday 18 July.
There’s more about the event and lots of information about British cherries on the FoodLoversBritain website:
National Cherry Day – 18 July 2009