Cherries ripe for the picking

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By: Rachel Shenk

Gwen Ragno/Flavor 574

It sounds like all the fireworks have died out. Now, at dusk, when I sit on my front porch, I watch the fireflies light and the bats swoop. And I hear the birds’ last songs before they go to roost. July is here and that means it’s time for cherry season to be in full swing.

Have you ever gone cherry picking? I have. I lived in a small town on the top of one side of the river valley. Our church building sat on a lot in the next town on the other side of the valley. It had a large grassy lot in the back and on it stood two or three cherry trees.

So when the cherries were ripe and before the birds would get to them, we grabbed our biggest Tupperware containers and whatever other large buckets we could find and headed out in the car from our house to the church building.

The route took us around a curvy, sloping road that turned from blacktop to cobblestone down to the cool and green river valley bottom, and then back up around another bend lined with trees where the surface became blacktop again. We would then be in the next town and make our way to the church building with its parking lot out front.

Out we would clamber with our containers and walk around the back to the trees. Back in the days when I was lithe and limber, all I needed was a low branch to swing up on and the cherries were ready for the picking.

I liked being up in the tree and looking down on the backyard below. I felt as though I had a bird’s-eye view of the world. Ladders also leaned against the tree trunks so we could reach the branches.

The cherries I picked there were not the big ruby juicy cherries that I bought this week. They were yellow cherries with a light red blush. I liked the innumerable colour variations and the feel of the smooth, cool fruit against my fingertips.

Of course, as we picked, we would eat our fill and see how many pits we could keep in our mouths at once. We would also use the cherries as earrings if we picked them in strands of two.

Slowly but surely, the plink sound would make way to the plunk sound and our tubs would fill up. And just as surely, our bellies would say enough. It was time to go home with our harvest. I don’t remember what we did with those cherries other than eat them on the spot. We knew that for a few short weeks, they would be the best thing on earth.

These days, I do the same thing. I buy some at the market and eat as many as I can, stopping before my belly says enough. And every year, I try out some new recipe ideas with them so that I can enjoy them in more ways than one.

My go-to salad at this time of year includes fresh mozzarella and some mint. And remember, there’s always the traditional standbys: homemade cherry pie and cherry crumble.

Cherry, Mint and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cup small fresh mozzarella balls, halved
  • 1 pint fresh cherries, washed and pitted
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (I like the Sungold for colour)
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • ½ sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped

Mix all of the above. Add vinaigrette.

Balsamic vinaigrette:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • ⅓ tsp. dried basil
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt

Mix well.

Take ⅓ cup dressing and add 1½ tsp. grated lime zest.

Mix into salad and serve on a bed of greens.

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