Saturday, 22 June & Monday, 24 June 2013
Cherries, Sour and Sweet
It's time. As I was filling in the entries in my garden journal I noticed that in previous years I'd been over to Dick's orchard picking sour cherries. A quick telephone call and - great minds think alike- he'd been about to call me. Another day or two and the sour cherries would be ripe for the picking. I love sour cherries. They're wonderful for cobblers and pies, lovely for preserves, soused in plain, clear alcohol such as a mid-range vodka, kippered with some vinegar. Only problem is finding them. I want them in bulk, not merely a puny little pressed paper carton at a seriously overpriced cost. If the store even has them. So here's how it works for Dick and for me. He has two sour cherry trees. His uncle planted one tree and he planted the other. Montmorency, a classic variety. It's not worth his while to open the stand just for this one item. So I come pick. Pit, process, freeze the excess, maybe come back for more.
. . . . . .
In everyone's memory this has been the very best Spring ever for flowering trees: magnolias, dogwoods, crab apples, and flowering cherries. And
apparently the same holds true for the fruit trees too. Just look how heavy with fruit is this sour cherry, glistening bright red cherries, tart and juicy.
The trees are netted to protect the fruit from birds. It's awkward stretching the net over the tree
with a large pole, padded on the end so the net won't catch and tear. Then weigh the mesh down.
Sour cherries are clipped off the stem. You cannot pull the fruit off or it spoils at the wound.
Nor do you want to pull the stem off the fruiting spur and damage it. It is so peaceful up
in the orchard - hot weather but there's a bit of a breeze, sunshine, quiet. Sour cherries
a bucket full. Seven pounds of sour cherries per bucket. Today I got two buckets.
As well, there are a few trees of sweet cherries. These are Van. They're sold by the punnett.
Sweet cherries are more work. If it rains on them when they're close to ripe the fruit will crack
and spoil. Dick watches the weather forecasts closely, checking the radar track. If wet weather
seems headed his way he needs to get a light tarp over the already netted trees, a two-person job.
And remove it when the weather clears. Planting, pruning, maintenance - picking is the least of it.
Dick's son Mike loves strawberries. So this year they planted 200 strawberry plants. Not just for eating and to sell fresh, but also jam making, for Mike to sell at the farm stand. Tested the soil, tilled it over, slightly mounded, fertilized, drip irrigation, mulched with black plastic The first season you're supposed to pick all the flowers and let the plants get well established. They left 4 flowers per plant for "quality control and taste testing." The one I tasted was delicious. Strawberry plants will yield for three years, starting the second year.
They're planning to plant another 200 strawberry plants next year, and perhaps 200 more the year after that. By the time the third set is bearing this year's will be played out and need to be replaced. It's hard work. Forget shipped from California, or available in January from below the equator. Local fruit, in season - nothing better.
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