Cornelian Cherry

Photo from Wiki Commons

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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. 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!

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.

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.