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May 30, 2008 at 10:30 AM

Sweet on sour cherries

When I opened my email-box this morning, I found a query near and dear to my heart — and my stomach. “I’m wondering if you can tell me the season for sour pie cherries, and if this is something I’m likely to find at a Northwest farmer’s market,” wondered Debbie Jeske. Funny she should ask. The short answer? “Soon” and “yes.” I know this because we have two sour cherry trees in our backyard, small-rootstock that began bearing a year after we bought them from Raintree Nursery in 1997.

Our trees were in full bloom in late April:

And today the cherries look like this:

Both my husband and I have childhood memories of eating bright red sour cherries, like these Montmorencies from the Raintree catalogue:

His involve spending summers at a cottage on Lake Michegan in Door County, Wisconsin, a place famous for its pie cherries. Mine involve filching sour cherries from a neighbor’s tree in Philadelphia, and eating them out-of-hand till I got a stomachache. Our son will likely remember how, each year, we harvest our cherries by hand (cursing the ones pecked by the robins), and how his dad always makes “the first cherry pie of the season” — always a big deal around here.

Then we’ll pit the rest, freeze them on baking trays, and later fill as many gallon freezer-bags as possible. When we have a good harvest like we did last year (thanks, in part, to our mason bees), Mac will be making cherry pies clear through till February. That’s when we ate the hallowed “last cherry pie of the season,” giving us plenty of time to anticipate our next crop. Which is due to ripen sometime between mid-June and the beginning of July, Debbie, when you should start seeing them at Northwest farmer’s markets.

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