Cornus mas a.k.a The Cornel
Seed grown trees may produce only male flowers (mas = male) for many years therefore no fruit will be produced – so get a cutting-grown tree! Cornus mas will grow well in Melbourne conditions, tolerating both frost and heat. Winter (or early spring) flowering, delicate yellow tassels open before the leaves, providing great winter interest in the garden. Lime green heavily veined leaves follow, which provide a good backdrop for the brilliant red fruit.
Berries ripen to a ruby red in mid to late summer, acidic, but if allowed to ripen further after falling from the tree, will continue to sweeten. The acidic flavour has been described as a mixture of cranberry and sour cherry. They make a sauce similar to cranberry sauce which is brilliant with rich meats such as game meats or osso bucco, ox tail etc. The fruit are most commonly used for jam making. Wonderful on a crusty loaf, but watch for pips.
Cornus mas Jam
4 cups of sugar
2 1/2 cups of water
1 pound of Cornelian cherry fruit
In a large pot, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer the liquid for 15 minutes. Stir in the fruit and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened. Periodically skim off the foam that comes to the surface of the mixture. Pour into sterile jars and seal (or consume right away to save that trouble).
In Azerbaijan and Armenia, the fruit is used for distilling vodka, while in Albania it is distilled into raki. In Turkey and Iran it is eaten with salt as a snack in summer, and traditionally drunk in a cold drink called kızılcık şerbeti.