Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Surinam Cherry Relish

During the height of Surinam cherry season, some artist friends brought over a delectable fruit relish that they like to spoon over fish. They referred to it as "Michael's Amazing Surinam Cherry Fruit Bowl."  It’s incomparable to anything I’ve had. Sweet and tart and juicy, not cooked like a chutney, and with complex layers of flavor. Even DH, who is not generally crazy about sweet things, ate several helpings. It's kind of like a salsa, but fruity!

Surinam cherries and other fruits over salmon

I was fooled by this dish and thought it had some tomatoes, because of the juicy red pieces, but they were actually sour-sweet Surinam cherries. I actually thought this was a variation of a fruity tomato salsa. Surinam cherries are still fruiting now, though the ones I have access to are not producing as abundantly as a couple of months ago.

These are lighter colored surinam cherries.
They are very ripe and a bit tart. 

Surinam cherries are not like regular cherries. They taste different as well, more wilder somehow, like a wild berry.  They are about the same size as a regular cherry, with a medium pit inside. They are delightfully grooved and can have a tart taste. Usually, the deeper the red, the sweeter the fruit. Lighter colored Surinam cherries can make you pucker up! Here's a collage of surinam cherries in various stages of growth, including flowering.

When they are going off, I mean, producing a lot, you can end up with a lot of these little beauties. These big bushes seem to love Hawaii’s mild climate and I have seen them growing in lower Kula, along the side of the mountain, and also in Haiku, about 800 feet above sea level. They can be made into preserves and juiced, and used in a lot of ways, but this is the first time I’ve had them over fish.  This is also a great way to use up lighter colored Surinam cherries.

This adaptable recipe is from Michael and Karen O’Reilly, who express their art in many ways, including in the kitchen. I wrote about a visit to the O'Reilly art studio during the Maui Open Studios.

Very challenging to take photos of food! I hope I've done this dish justice!

Michael's Amazing Surinam Cherry Fruit Bowl (aka Surinam Cherry Relish)
A cup of Surinam cherries, diced
A cup of mangos diced
A cup of pineapple diced
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1/8 to 1/4 cup of red pepper, diced finely
1/8 to 1/4 cup of green pepper, diced finely
1/8 to 1/4 cup of onion, diced finely.  (Maui sweet onion is a good bet.)
1/8 to 1/4 cup of celery, chopped thinly, across the stalk
Salt to taste

The smaller you chop the ingredients, the more flavors you’ll taste in one spoonful.  I would try to keep my pieces no bigger than half an inch, and would cut the celery, pepper, and onion more finely than that.

Mix all ingredients together and as Michael says, “I just make it to taste - kinda wing it or make it up as you go along...” It’s a very flexible recipe, and you can adapt the amounts to your liking. Michael says it is great over salmon, but you can certainly try it with other kinds of fish to kick up the flavor.  I also enjoyed spooning it out of the jar by itself.  It’ll last for a couple of days in the fridge.

This recipe is also vegan, raw, and gluten-free. Enjoy!


  1. Looks delicious! You're making me hungry!!

  2. It was yummy. I wonder if you could substitute a fruit where you are - maybe sour cherries?


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