Sour Cherries with Rosewater: An Iranian Inspiration

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Last year I wrote about my most favorite fruit moment of the year: when the sour cherries are ripe.

It’s quick, fleeting, and must be made the most of. Fortunately, sour cherries freeze really well and make an amazing winter treat (on ice cream or in Greek yogurt, just to name a few ways to enjoy them). Well, last September at the brunch following my daughter’s wedding, I was talking to one of the guests, whose amazing name is Heewa Barfchin. I don’t quite remember how we got to talking about sour cherries. I remember he thought I looked Scandinavian. He is Iranian. And he said that in Iran, they add rosewater to their sour cherry sauce.

And that started a slight obsession. I searched for organic rosewater. I even briefly considered making it myself, until I realized how complicated it really is. Finally, I went to our local Lebanese grocery (Soumaya Bakery), which makes amazing whole wheat pitas and delicious baba ghanoush, hummus, tabbouleh, and fresh feta. The man behind the counter assured me that they barely use chemicals on roses in the Middle East, since they don’t have to. Whether I believe him or not doesn’t really matter. I bought some. My father used to take me to Soumaya when I was a young girl, before they had their brand new shiny store—back when it was in the front of a row house on one of the scarier streets in Allentown. I love the continuity of taking my daughters there, and telling them that story, and coming home with a bag full of treats.

Anyway, this year I had a precious batch of sour cherries. So I washed them, pitted them, and boiled them with a tiny bit of water and a nice dose of organic sugar…I boiled them until they turned magenta and frothed a bit. Then I added a dash or two of rosewater. And we ate it on ice cream (vanilla). And it was good! One daughter thought it tasted a bit like lip gloss, which she liked. We all agreed it added a degree of depth and complexity to the flavor. I still love sour cherries plain. But I also love them with rosewater, and I’m very grateful for Heewa’s tip.

Last year, I even planted sour cherry trees! This year, even though they are still babies, one of them has about 10 cherries on them. So now, every year, my whole family can enjoy the magical rare treat of sour cherries (with and without rosewater).


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10 Responses to Sour Cherries with Rosewater: An Iranian Inspiration

  1. Gus June 22, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    Just had a fantastic desert at Yianni’s Taverna Greek restaurant in Bethlehem – Greek yogurt and sour cherries from Greece. It was incredibly good and worth the effort!

  2. Laura P June 22, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Thanks for sharing this!! What a wonderful story and great tip. I will now be looking in my town for this treat!

  3. Donna in Delaware June 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    I am not overly fondof rosewater except to put it on my face. I do like orange water though, and wonder what orange water would taste like with sour cherries. I just bought a nice bottle of organic sour cherry juice yesterday from my health food store. I use it not only for drinking, but in the fall and winter, I make a sauce of it to put on veal chops and certain cuts of beef, since I don’t eat pork anymore.

  4. Kim Burdick, Stanton, DE June 23, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    Yummy! Guess what i am buying tommorrow?!!

    Thank you, Maria, for this delicious idea.

    Kim Burdick
    Stanton, Delaware

    P.S. to Donna in Delaware–some time do drop by the historic Hale Byrnes House! check out our website at

  5. Sue Swyt June 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Congrats, in a few years, there will be more than enough cherries. I’ve had to call in neigbhors to glean. They love to have dill as a companion plant. Unfortunately, this year, my North Star Cherry has brown rot and all our Ohio rain is not helping. If you’ve dealt with this, and have any organic control advice for the home gardener, I’m all ears.

  6. MyraSaidIt June 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    That sounds delicious. I also like the cherries, and grapes, straight out of the freezer. They are a wonderful treat on a hot summer day!
    They are an excellent of several vitamins and minerals.


  7. Donna in Delaware June 24, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Ok KIM. Been meaning to do that since I arrived in Delaware. Have a lot more discovering to do yet.

  8. Sonny Hunsickle June 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    When I was a child, our neighbors had a cherry tree that hung into our backyard. Ever the young scientist, I always wanted to know how those pesky birds knew enough to eat the low-hanging cherries first, before we could get them, before settling on the top of the tree and devouring the stuff we couldn’t reach. Now I know 1) nature is always one step ahead of us 2) this is a good thing 3) in fact it’s the only way to keep the world in balance and 4) Plant more (and smaller) trees

  9. Kim Burdick, Stanton, DE June 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Happy Day! I found sour cherries in the store today, and tommorrow I will serve them with yogurt and rosewater… sounds like they will taste good for a late breakfast on a hot summer morning!

    Kim Burdick
    Stanton, DE

  10. Laura B. June 28, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Love sour cherries & rosewater & Soumaya! Although not organic, I understand that many middle eastern farmers distrust western ag. practices & chemical companies & use very little, if no, herbicides & pesticides. Great falafel mix there in freezer section called Heba’s.

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