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.
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