Cerise de Céret, la première cerise de France
la primeur du délice
When one speaks of Céret, one inevitably thinks of cherries. The climate and soil of the Vallespir has provided the perfect environment for the cherry for over 150 years, meaning that cherry-lovers –amongst them the French president, who receives a gift of the first cherries of the season each year–have the good fortune to be able to taste the first fruits from around mid-April.
The Vallespir is one of the southernmost regions of France, with a light, well-drained soil that reflects its geographical position in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The Spring season here tends to be warm with little wind, providing good flowering conditions and the likelihood of early fruiting.
However, production has slowly declined over the years and current production levels show annual weights of around 1200 tonnes in comparison with almost 5000 tonnes in the 1970s.
In 1998, under the direction of a number of local producers, a group called ‘Promotion de la Cérise de Céret’ was founded, its aim being to re-launch the cherry as a commercial fruit with renewed vigour.
This group, which is made up of approximately fifteen local producers, have recently introduced a Quality Charter. This charter, the result of two years’ work, outlines an approved programme for cherry production and a quality finished product sold under the name of ‘Primélice’.
A documentary with the title of ‘Céret, des cérises et des hommes’ can be seen on Youtube :
Along with the cherry, the Vallespir is also renowned for its Mimosa, its yellow blossoms lighting up the hillsides and scenting the air from early in the year.
The French poet, Réné Char wrote on the subject in his book ‘Fureur et Mystère’ (Fury and Mystery, 1948):
Fields of mimosa camp out on the hillsides of the village. It’s time to gather the blooms and, by chance, far from where they grow, you meet a girl, so sweetly fragrant from the fragile blooms that have filled her arms the whole day through. The sweet perfume surrounds her like a lamp’s shining halo. She passes on her way, her back turned towards the setting sun…’