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Cherry Picking

TartCherriesUSDA

July 4th is always cherry picking time at my house, and today I was out to gather my first batch. They’re for a friend whose father was reminiscing about how long it’s been since he’s had some tart cherries.

Mine are tart; they’re not bing cherries or maraschinos. Either you add sugar when you bake them or you’re going to pucker up.

One of my trees was picked over fairly well by uninvited neighbors, if the pits on the sidewalk were any indication. This is probably thanks to the kids next door, whose luscious garden has signs posted in every direction, NO PICKING, GO AWAY, NO TRESPASSING.

At least they didn’t steal my tulips this year. Their father lied to me about it last year and threw the tulips in the alley outside my other neighbor’s house.

When birds start feeding on my cherries I can tell, because they eat around the pits rather than spitting them out. Kids are not as smart as birds, but hey, what are neighbors for.

If the lady across the street, whom I don’t even know, takes to stealing my fruit again, I’ll call the cops. She’s married to a retired policeman from L.A., so I’m sure she obeys the law except when it comes to cherries. (I have sent word, believe me.)

In Indiana, anyone who steals your first tomato can be shot without penalty. State law, I swear; don’t fuck with Hoosiers when it comes to first tomatoes.

But cherries, I still have thousands. This year I’m going to get out the ladder so I can pick the high-hanging fruit. It may be sort of a pain, except when it’s time for pie.

Tart cherries are good for you, according to a study at the University of Michigan. They help control cholesterol and blood sugar, which is good for diabetics and heart patients.

Me, I just like cherries. My two trees are planted in the front, next to the street, where they’re subject to marauding urchins. And birds, but that can’t be helped. If children won’t be shamed, maybe their parents will be.

But I don’t care, I always have plenty, and my trees are so gorgeous in the springtime.

Meanwhile I’ve got more herbs than recipes to use them all. Chives, rosemary, tarragon, parsley, thyme and something new this year, dill. I am queer for dillweed: salmon! Cucumber soup! Chicken salad! The plants are delicate as a feather, but they stand up to a Chicago wind.

And the tomatoes: five plants this year, so I’ll be canning come August. Tomatoes are my favorite food (and yes, I’ve got shotguns). I was a bit late getting them into the ground, but they are thriving.

It’s July already, which means only two more months of summer. I hope to savor my flowers and fruit every day until they are no more.

That’s how to live; taste what you’ve got as long as you have it. When it’s gone it’s gone, but while it’s here, mmm’boy, life’s good eatin’.++

Side Porch with Impatiens.Peter

Side porch with impatiens, my summer kitchen, June 2009, by Peter Schroder.

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