When we first bought our Melbourne home, one of the attractions was the number of fruit trees in the backyard. Since then, we have added some and lost some, and they are still a huge part of the pleasure our garden brings us.

One of the trees we lost along the way was a wonderful old cherry tree. It was on its last legs when we moved in, but we were able to get a few years' harvests before the tree finally died. It was a black cherry, with sweet luscious fruit. It was always a battle with the birds to get any for ourselves - we netted the tree, but were only able to save the inner branches, as the birds (and bats) would climb over the netting to eat any they could reach.

The black cherry tree had a companion red cherry tree, much younger and with tart red cherries that seemed almost inedible compared to their sweeter cousins. After the older tree died, we kept the younger one because of the shade it provides to the back verandah, and of course the beautiful blossoms in spring, but we happily left all the fruit to the birds.

Photographing some of the cherry blossoms up close before they all blow away :)

This year, for some reason the birds were a bit late to the party and the cherries ripened to a deeper red than they normally have the opportunity to. How wonderful, to see these red jewels nestled amongst the leaves of the cherry tree!

Our cherry tree is looking good this year - lots of fruit on :)

Of course these beautiful looking fruit had to be tasted, and although they were still on the tart side, as we remembered, there was a hint of sweetness that made us look at our red cherries with new eyes.

A pair of cute little cherries from our tree :)

So we started picking cherries - just in the nick of time, as the birds had finally woken up to their presence! - and were able to gather just over a kilo of fruit from the tree. We ate a few fresh, but we wanted to find out how they would turn out if we stewed or poached them with a little sugar to bring out the flavour and add a little extra sweetness.

I pitted the cherries (I will never regret buying a cherry pitter all those years ago!), and pulled out Tim's trusty school days edition of "Cookery the Australian way". I followed the basic guidelines to stew them with sugar and water, but I also added a touch of cherry brandy essence and vanilla essence to give them a little oomph. They were absolutely delicious! I loved the way the skins became translucent upon cooking, and the flavour was really lovely. They're amazing with vanilla ice cream :)

Stewed cherries with vanilla - so good!!

Now that we know what a treasure we have in our garden, we might have to get the bird nets out next year ...