Qershi i zi nga Luzni
The Luznia black cherry, named after the village of Luzni, is a late-season variety grown in Dibra County, northeastern Albania.
This cherry has a distinctive dark red to black color and a characteristic longitudinal line. It is of medium size,smaller than more common varieties,and has a slightly oblong shape and a long stalk. Flowering starts in the middle of may and the first fruits arrive in the third week of june. They are ready for harvest when they have turned almost black.
Along with the Burlat and Summit varieties, this cherry accounted for a large proportion of cherry production in the area and was mainly used as a fruit for the table or to make marmalade and compote. Dibra is a mountainous area and its climate has features of the Mediterranean and continental climate types, with high temperature fluctuations. This climate is very suitable for the growth of cherries, and the Luznia cherry in particular acquires an extraordinary flavor due to the particular conditions of the area. Luznia cherry trees are propogated by seed and preferably planted on sloping terrain. They produce consistently from year to year and require very few agronomic treatments.
The fruit is mostly harvested by hand from ladders, though tree combs are also 27 used. The harvest is a family activity.
Local people are very attached to this cherry variety as it is not found in other areas of Albania, where the soil and climate conditions are not suitable for its cultivation. Luznia black cherry is closely tied to the local culture and traditions: One of the biggest spring celebrations in Dibra is the “Cherry Feast,” which occurs every year in one of the villages where Luznia cherry trees are particularly abundant. During the harvest season, children play and wear the cherries as if they were earrings. According to Albanian tradition, cherry compote is given to people who are sick with a cold or sore throat. Cherry stalks are also used for medicinal purposes: After being dried, they are used to make a tisane to heal abdominal cramps or treat diarrhea. During Communism, Luznia black cherries were exported abroad due to their highly regarded taste and appearance. Luznia cherry compote is mainly sold in Dibra region, but in recent years demand for this product has also grown in Tirana.
Over the last 25 years, this variety has suffered great damage due to massive logging for profit. Moreover, planting and cultivation of foreign varieties has led to a decrease in the number of Luznia black cherry trees. Young farmers prefer to plant newer varieties that require less attention and maintenance. Some farmers in Dibra still maintain the old Luznia trees, but few of them remain.
Luznia black cherries are mainly consumed fresh, though it is also traditional to make juice and to dry the fruit for winter. One characteristic local product is black cherry compote: Cherries are carefully washed and their stalks are removed; they are then opened into two parts and the stone is removed. Thus prepared, the fruits are placed in a cooking bowl, and water, sugar, and a little bit of lemon juice are added. The compote is cooked and simmered until it thickens, and then stored in glass jars for the winter.