As you stroll through the foothills of the Panaro river in the months of May and July, your attention is likely to be drawn to the expanse of trees, studded with red. At an altitude of between 30 and 950 metres above sea level, this particular area of the Modena and Bologna provinces is where the PGI Ciliegia di Vignola cherry is cultivated.
This particular variety of cherry grows on several species of cherry tree - Bigarreau Moreau, Mora di Vignola, Durone dell’Anella, Anellone, Giorgia, Durone Nero I, Samba, Van, Durone II, Durone della Marca, Lapins, Ferrovia and Sweet Heart - which give rise to cherries with a firm, crunchy flesh, the famous duroni cherries (larger, darker-coloured cherries) or those with a soft flesh, known as tenerine cherries.
The colour of the cherry's skin also differs depending on the type and can range from bright red, dark red and the yellowy red of the Durone della Marca variety. Vignola cherries are also characterised by their size, as they are larger than other types you might find on the market.
Numerous historical documents confirm that this fruit was growing in the area as early as the mid-19th century. In the years that followed, production and trade continued to increase and events devoted to this particular cherry began to emerge, such as Vignola è tempo di ciliegie, the Vignola harvest festival with local farmer stalls and tasting opportunities.
The PGI Vignola cherry is a highly versatile ingredient to cook with. Starting first with desserts, these cherries can be used to make ciliegiata, a sweet preserve made with wine and sugar, and jams and clafoutis. A more unusual pairing sees game served with a cherry sauce, whilst a more classic use of these cherries is in liqueurs, such as kirsch.