Razhdavichka Belvitza Cherry

Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves - Bulgaria

The fruit of the cherry ranges from medium-large to large, with an average height of 21.5 mm, an average width of 22.5 mm and a thickness of 18.5mm. The average weight of the individual fruit is about 6 grams. The fruit has a heart shape, with a thin, tender yellow skin with red or pink dots, but when fully ripe the specked skins are all red or even striped with red spots. The flesh of the fruit is yellowish, with a slight redness under the skin. The cherries are juicy and very sweet with only a slight acidity. The juice is clear. These cherries are considered of the highest quality. They are harvested by hand from in the late spring, from the end of May to mid-June and sold locally.   The Razhdavichka Belvitza cherry variety has existed since at least the 19th century if not earlier, according to documents from the Bulgarian Institute of Agriculture and other books related to the topic. The variety is famous throughout the area, evoking fond memories and pride. Every year in June in the town of Kyustendil, a weekend long celebration marks the cherry season. Not only are multiple varieties of cherries are represented, but the local village cultural community centers create beautiful artistic creations using the many colors exhibited in each variety. Besides eating them fresh, Razhdavichka Belvitza are also preserved as compote, dried or made into rakia, a traditional Balkan spirit.   Razhdavichka Belvitza is the most planted local variety in Kyustendil, in western Bulgaria. At one time it was the most populous of all the varieties, including modern and hybrids. It is also found specifically in the village of Razhdavitza, to the north of Kyustendil, which gives its name to the variety, along with Shipochano, Dvorishte, Gorna Grashtitza and Shishkovtzi, which lie between the base of Mt. Konyavo and the Struma River, about 90 km south of Sofia. The largest concentrations of trees are in the first three villages mentioned.   The Razhdivichka Belvitza and other old local cherry varieties are disappearing. Despite Kyustendil being famed for its cherries, even being given the moniker of the 'Cherry Capital of Bulgaria,” finding large-scale producers of this sort is almost impossible. The thin skin and small window for transportation and lack of suitable storage facilities mean this variety, which is eaten fresh, is difficult to market commercially. It has a shelf life of only a few days, and many producers grow this variety only as a hobby. This cherry is strongly linked with the production area, and part of the local culture that will hopefully be preserved for future generations.