Ode to Picotas (Picota Cherries)

June, sweet June. Forget spring, summer holds the promise of renewed spirit and limitless possibilities. The days are longer and the yield is sweeter. When the breeze dances with the promise of summer, the picotas make their first appearance. To merely call them “cherries” is utter blasphemy. Can you recall that feeling of a desperate mid-night desire for water? And how, with that first sip, life blooms once again from the inside-out? That is the first bite of picotas after a dry spell. They are not simply the sum of juicy flesh plus taut exterior–nay! Picotas also herald the arrival of of cloudless skies, long-stretching days, of a season without classes and days not dictated by the clock.

My fruit vendor knows me as “la chica de Arkansas,” aka that guiri who asks to photograph the fruit

As I coast toward the end of the school year, picotas are a perfect excuse to swing by the fruit store. And oh, I do run by, before class, after private lessons, on weekend market days. I have been known to return from a jog, frutería bag in hand, leaving my boyfriend befuddled–“But I thought you were going for a run…” (Yes, dear, I went running. Straight to the stand with the best picotas.) 

If you are lucky enough to be in Spain during picota season–roughly June and July, only!–then watch your back for sneaky grannies who will cut in line at the frutería. Remember: the fame of these cherries is known far and wide. Some Spanish ladies might try to pull one on your by shaking their bag of picotas with hypnotic motions until you cede your spot. 

Picooootaaassssss

What makes picotas so unique and worthy of cutting in line? First of all, when they are harvested the stem does not come with the fruit. (Read: they are easier to shovel into your mouth.) Since they stubbornly refuse to be plucked until they are perfectly ripe, is is much more likely for the fruit to be in tip-top shape for eating as opposed to under or over-ripe. (Read: Perfection.) The cherries come from the Jerte Valley (Valle de Jerte in Spanish) and are of smaller size, less acidic, and are generally regarded to be of higher quality than other cherries. Their taste is sweet, not sour, and they also tend to have bigger pits than their counterparts. 

Picotas are at once familiar, yet novel enough to recreate new maps in my memory.These deep purple fruits are the perfect burst of sweetness, and I recommend them with your breakfast, as a snack, or for after-dinner noshing. Per kilo, they are more expensive than plums, kiwis, or regular ‘ole cherries, and are about on par with figs.They are worth every penny. 

Fill up on cherries with these fab picota links:

Cerezas y picotas. ¿Sabes distinguirlas? – Compare cherries and pictoas with Directo al Paladar

Picodka cocktail – Make a picotas + vodka cocktail on Conica.es

In the Kitchen with Picota – Browse recipes from a UK picotas supplier

Are you a fan of picotas? (And can we start a club?) Leave a comment below!

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8 Comments

  1. Near the end of the school year my English teacher bought a wooden box of normal cherries to share with the other teachers and I LOVED eating them since I had never eaten them growing up, although everyone else said the cherries in May weren’t quite ripe yet. I will have to hunt out some picota cherries next summer; the way you describe them makes them sound amazing!!!

  2. Cassandra

    If you liked regular cherries, you will also enjoy picotas. Definitely add them on your to-try list for next year !

  3. so poetic!! i’ll be on the look out for them now. i tried some last week, but i guess they were just regular cherries (pfft!) because they had stems. i love that your fruit vendor knows you so well ;)

    • Cassandra

      I hope you can find them! I know that there is a distributor in the UK, so hopefully you can find them in Belgium, too. They’re the best!

  4. Great post, Cassandra! I’m glad you appreciate the lovely Picota.
    Maybe you (& Trevor, as he’s a fan!) should come visit the Jerte Valley in Extremadura. There are two great times to visit: Late March/early April to see the cherry trees in flower, and the cherry festival, held early June to celebrate the start of the harvest of the Picota. I think you’d love it here!

  5. Cassandra

    Thanks, Sue!

    I have seen photos of the Jerte Valley and it looks gorgeous in bloom. I wasn’t aware that there was a cherry festival(!!!), but perhaps I really will have to plan a visit next spring!

  6. Worth a visit not just for the delicious fruit but also the duel with the Abuelas.

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