On Thursday 1 July, European Picota cherries were delighted to host an exclusive trade event at Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair, London to mark the return of European Picota cherries to the UK for their short season that runs until August. The celebration aimed to showcase the special Picota cherry story, and what sets it apart as a high-quality European fruit.
Journalists and individuals from the UK hospitality, catering and fresh produce sectors were all present at the event, where they received talks both in person and virtually focussing on the European Picota cherry variety. Guests also enjoyed a selection of unique canapes and drinks showcasing the best of what Picota cherries can offer, and their versatility for catering.
A special talk explaining the farming traditions of the European Jerte Valley was presented virtually by Mónica Tierno from the Picota cherry grower organisation, AGRUPACIÓN DE COOPERATIVAS VALLE DEL JERTE. “As well as being the only stalkless variety, Picotas are smaller in size but big in flavour, making them unique within the cherry category,” Tierno explained.
The Agrupación farmers who grow this exclusive European variety have followed rigorous quality control procedures that grant the Picota its DO (Denomination of Origin) status. This seal certifies its exceptional sweetness, traceability, and European quality. From the handpicking of each individual cherry to its unique health benefits, the sustainable and traditional production of the Jerte Picota cherry is an example of European fruit production at its finest.
Other speakers at the event included Peter Brazil from importer JO Sims, which sells around 2,500 tonnes of Picota a year, who said the variety formed an integral part of its annual cherry programme with UK retailers. John Giles, Divisional Director at Promar, the international consultancy for the food and agriculture sector, also demonstrated where Picotas fit in to the overall market.
David Mulcahy, culinary director at Sodexo and Sustainability Director and Vice President of The Craft Guild of Chefs, noted that since the start of the pandemic, chefs have turned to more versatile ingredients such as Picota cherries. Mulcahy noted the benefits of the Picota as both a visually and ethically attractive product, having been sustainably grown, and being an ingredient that can be used creatively in current and future hospitality trends.
Fred Searle, Editor of Fresh Produce Journal, summarised the importance of marketing this unique cherry variety, highlighting the activities of this summer’s marketing campaign, which has included multiple instore and online promotions with retailers, social media activity and advertising in consumer and trade publications.
The Jerte Valley is located 200km west of Madrid, in Northern Extremadura. Over one million cherry trees are grown on the slopes of the mountain, on terraces. When the cherries are ready to be harvested at optimum ripeness, they are hand-picked off the trees, leaving the stalks behind, and placed into chestnut baskets. This method has been handed down from generation to generation. The cherries are then sorted one-by-one, at the base of the trees, as the farmers select only the best ones to be sold and eaten. The Picota cherries are then packaged in the Jerte Valley and shipped off to their final destinations.