The Cornelian Cherry

A Culinary Rediscovery

Hungry for discovery, Berliners blindly walk past wild delicacies on a daily basis. Just open your eyes and you’ll be amazed at how often the graceful Cornelian cherry winks your way in parks, on the side of the road or in your very own backyard. It’s hard to believe, really, that in our quinoa- and amaranth-crazed capital such a species could remain under the radar for so long. These wild fruits surpass oranges in vitamin C content, and Hildegard von Bingen appreciated the juicy red pearls of the old plant species for their positive effect on the stomach. For her medieval friends with gout she recommended a bath infused with Cornelian cherry bark.

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And this berry-like find is more than just healthy: it’s pure pleasure for the palate. Its subtly sour cherry flavor makes it excellent for jams and jellies. High-end distilleries let the inimitable aroma of the dark red shiny fruits unfold in schnapps and liquors. Many swear by adding roasted Cornelian cherry to their coffee, and FYI: it’s a type of yellow dogwood, in no way related to the sweet or sour cherry. Berlin master chef, Thomas Kammeier, celebrates its tart, fruity flavor. He suggests: Cornelian cherry ice cream!

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Originally found in the Caucasus mountains, comus mas carved a path through Crimea and Asia Minor to our neck of the woods. While it was always valued and enjoyed in Turkey, primarily in the form of a refreshing lemonade, in Europe it lost ground to the fresh discovery of wine growing. The Cornelian cherry’s wood, gorgeous and especially hard, also contributed to its eradication as well as supposedly giving Odysseus’s legendary bow its shape.If anything, the search for a more conscious food culture is currently bestowing a renaissance upon the beautiful berry with the large, two-seeded pit. On mundraub.org, for example, entries pinpointing the gnarly guy are ever-growing, and new recipes are shooting up out of the digital soil.

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From the beginning of August thru the beginning of October, ripe Cornelian cherries fall right off the branch. On your next walk through the city, keep your eyes peeled for the old friend with oval fruit and get a flavorful image of the cherry for yourself – soon it may not be as invisible as it once was.

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