Central Swiss olives

Dominik Flammer

Despite being widespread, the Cornelian cherry, which comes from the Cornelian cherry dogwood, is not particularly well known. This dogwood is known by many names. It has been used in many different ways throughout the Alps for centuries and its fruit – when ripe – resemble cherries, although they have little in common with them. In Bavaria and Austria, it is also known as “Dirndl”. Cornelian cherries are predominantly used to make jams and preserves, however they are often also distilled and made into “Dirndl” schnapps. The unripe berries used to be – and occasionally still are – preserved like capers. Today, these can be found at the Haldihof in Weggis (Canton Lucerne), run by the innovative organic producer, Bruno Muff. His creation brings what look like Central Swiss “olives” to the table – drizzled with a little olive oil you could easily mistake them for the real Mediterranean appetizers. On the first Sunday in Lent, it used to be custom in southern Germany for girls to give young men a “Kuechelstruss” – a beer-battered Cornelian cherry blossom branch. The stones of the Cornelian cherry were once used in Catholic parts of the Alps to produce cheap rosaries. And in times of need or coffee shortages, they were even roasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute. With the replanting of wild hedgerows, they now have a bit more space in many parts of the countryside, along with lots of other berries and fruit that are slowly being rediscovered – such as medlars, red elderberries, juneberries, sloes, lemon quince and crab apples. And if you’re planning to plant a tree in your garden, you won’t regret it. With its yellow blossom, the Cornelian dogwood is one of the earliest plants to bloom. You’ll just need a little patience in late summer – the fruit should not be harvested from the tree as it’s only truly ripe when it falls to the ground. If you place a cloth underneath, you can gather the fruit over the course of several days and then either process it all in one go or store it in the freezer in small portions for some winter cooking fun.

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