Professional chefs and bakers are swift to tell you that, when it comes to cherries, there are two types of cherries to turn to: Morello cherries and sweet cherries. Not everyone knows the differences between these species, both of which have a distinct genetic makeup, cultivation method and culinary use. Find out the differences and learn how to make the most of these fruits in this post.
The first thing to bear in mind is that, of the thousands of types of cherry trees that exist in the world, only around ten types are grown commercially for their fruit. Both Morello and sweet cherries belong to the same family (Rosaceae) but are not the same species. Sweet cherries come from the Prunus Avium species and Morello cherries belong to the Prunus Cerasus species. The latter is an older and wilder tree which was much appreciated in Egyptian, Greek and Roman times, despite the sour flavour of the fruit it bears.
Both trees provide summer fruit that is most widely consumed from May to the end of August. Harvest begins in the middle of May and the fruit must be consumed quickly as it does not continue to ripen once picked from the tree, unlike other fruits. When fresh cherries are not in season, glacé cherries and canned cherries are used.
How Morello and sweet cherry trees are cultivated
The most suitable terrain for growing both types of cherry trees is on mountain sides or in dryland orchards. They can be harvested three months after flowering, although they are extremely susceptible to brusque temperature changes, which can ruin a crop. They must not be exposed to more than 1,200 l/m² of rainfall a year because otherwise the skin begins to crack. Morello cherries are picked with their stalks to maintain their freshness and are harvested when the fruit is dark red; sweet picota cherries are picked stalkless.
The Extremadura area of Spain leads the way in sweet cherry and Morello cherry production, with 40.2% of the annual harvest coming from this area, followed by 24.8% of the harvest coming from Aragon, according to statistics from 2017. Within Aragon, the counties of Calatayud and Valdejalón are the most productive, where dry farming methods are used in over 45% of the cultivated landscape according to a study carried out by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture (ESYRCE).
Differences between Morello and sweet cherries
The most noticeable difference between the shape of the two different types of cherries is that Morello cherries are slightly smaller (between 13 and 20mm and 2cm in diameter and no heavier than 9g), whereas cherry sizes vary between 22mm to 30mm and can weigh anything between 9g and 14g.
Once ripe, Morello cherries can have a varied dark red, purple or yellow hue. The pulp of these cherries is almost always white, although a few varieties of Morello cherries have red pulp. Sweet cherries have an extensive range of red hues, varying all the way to black, which are known as Amarena cherries.
Cherries can have a sweet, acidic or slightly acidic taste; but Morello cherries are characterised by their bitter and sour flavour, which means they are rarely consumed fresh, rather in syrup or candied. Morello cherries have a shorter stem and have a distinctive nose dimple.
How do professional chefs use sweet cherries and Morello cherries in their dishes?
In a previous post we discussed the main uses of glacé cherries in baking, especially in dishes such as cherry pie, black forest gateaux, clafoutis, sponge cakes, cupcakes, confectionary, panna cotta, pancakes, ice creams, sorbets, jams, etc.
Given their sour taste, Morello cherries are most often used in their candied form, as cake decoration, or on cupcakes or as a garnish on mousse, etc. However, they are also used as an ingredient for confectionary, jam, preserves, factory-made baked goods or as a side dish for meat and game dishes.
Furthermore, they are often used in drinks such as grape juice, vermouth, aguardiente, and many cocktails. Some regions of Spain such as Murcia also use Morello cherries to decorate salads on Christmas Eve, or in apple tarts made with pine nuts, or with pineapple or canned peaches.
Cherries and Morello cherries can be used for decoration in various ways, as you can buy them sugar-coated, fresh, dried or canned in several different types of containers. Lazaya is the leading brand of candied cherries as it offers a wide range of products in different formats that adapt to the culinary needs of professional chefs and bakers.
For example, whole or chopped cherries, in different sizes, with or without their stone, and with or without the stalk are all available for purchase. The presentation of the product also depends upon the requirements of the chef or master baker who is going to use the cherries in their dishes. Some chefs prefer tins of cherries, others prefer glass jars, or tubs, or tins, or cherries served in cardboard boxes. Contact us and let us know your requirements. We have been experts in candied fruit since 1940.