A Bowl of Cherries

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, wondering where June went…

I don’t need an astronomer, or a calendar, or standing stones to know when the summer solstice hits. I’ve got my own personal predictor: the sour cherry tree we planted a couple of decades ago. The cherries are plump and green and just beginning to ripen by the longest day of the year. And by July 4th, they’re all done.


Anybody who’s ever been a gardener might know this feeling. You watch the plant’s progress, from dormancy, to blossoming, to fruiting/vegging and ripeness, eagerly awaiting the perfect time to pick. And then the time comes for the first harvest and it feels satisfying and wonderful.

Some years, like last year when we had a late spring freeze that decimated our fruit trees (we have two pear trees as well), we get only a handful. And other years, we get a bumper crop and manage to stay one step ahead of the birds. This is a bumper crop year. So the picking begins.

As does the pitting. And preserving. The thing about sour (pie) cherries is that they are extremely perishable, which is why you almost never find them in grocery stores. I don’t know that I’ve ever even seen any at a farm stand. They must be picked then within hours pitted and preserved or they develop an ugly brown and untasty ring at the stem end. So I have to pick at a time when I know I can do the follow-up work–pitting each individual fruit, then immediately cooking up with some sugar or freezing, to be cooked with sugar later.

Sour cherries are delicious–but they’re inedible until they’ve been properly prepared.

And I feel like that’s a metaphor for writing. Like those cherries between the solstice and Independence Day, ideas come fast and furious sometimes, and some of them will ripen into something wonderful. And some I’ll never get to, because they’re for the birds.

Today, and for the next few, there is no more time for profound thoughts. There are only endless bowls of cherries to process into jam, barbecue sauce, and future pies while binge watching Frankie and Grace on Netflix. But maybe, just maybe, during the repetitive motion of the pitting, a sweet little idea for the next story will emerge. We’ll see.

Do you grow any of your own food (or flowers)? Are there certain types or varieties you plant or harvest every year?

19 Thoughts

  1. Sounds delicious, Susannah! We have three citrus trees in the back yard. The best is an orange tree. The others grew up from root shoots and produce sour fruit perfect for making tangy marmalade.

    1. I love marmalade–which makes me think of Paddington Bear and how sad I was to hear that Michael Bond died! I’ve never tried making it but now that you put the idea into my head I might try some for holiday gifts this year. Any tips?

      1. Dear dear Paddington Bear. I was also sad to hear of Michael Bond’s death.

        Marmalade making is easy. Since you use the orange skin, I would be sure of getting a thick skinned orange and organic.I hope you have fun making it. I usually make a freezer version unless it is for gift giving, which I see you are thinking about.

  2. I love the metaphor, Susannah. Yes, I’m a grower from way back. This year is a bumper year for so many trees and fruiting shrubs, it seems. We had a huge blossom set on our very old dogwood, and I’m happy to report a very nice fruit set on my three four-year-old blueberry bushes for the first time. My garlic crop is also thriving. That I grow every year, saving out the best bulbs to plant in the fall for next year’s crop. So very satisfying. Maybe this bumper year is why I’ve written almost an entire book in one month!

    1. Mmmm, blueberries. We also have blueberries and used to get a decent amount but then the neighbor’s trees grew up so high that the blueberries have been shaded out and we haven’t gotten around to moving them someplace sunnier. My favorite crop we grow is a fall raspberry (Heritage). When those ripen, I know it’s back-to-school time! And go you! Keep those ideas and fingers flying.

  3. I know how you feel. Last year my mini-orchard was hit by a late frost, and the total harvest from seven trees was two apples. This year things are looking good (knock on wood), and every morning when I go out to collect the paper, I talk to the trees and praise their progress. “Hey, looking good, Northern Spy! You go, Cortland!” Sadly I’ve lost two trees in the past couple of years–my treasured Esopus Spitzenberg (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite), which succumbed to rapid fire blight, and a Pink Pearl that never really settled in (but produced a few pink-fleshed apples for a while).

    If there’s a metaphor somewhere in there, it’s that trees and book sales are unpredictable, some simply don’t thrive, and it never hurts to encourage them.

  4. I adore my hydrangeas but don’t grow any food. We have a small lot surrounded by large trees so we don’t have much sun. Fortunately, we have a two farmers markets near by.

  5. Some years ago I planted 5 tomato plants on a friend’s small organic farm. I ended up with 450 usable tomatoes! I bought put the store of canning materials. We are still eating those tomatoes and salsa.

  6. Sour cherries are the best! My daughter lives in Michigan, and has a second home near Torch Lake, right in the middle of cherry country. Every year I try to time a visit so I can bring back a coolerful of frozen cherries for my freezer.

    We do grow food, lots of it. We have a farm with lots of acres, but aside from wild foraging my garden is only 300 square feet, plus some containers. Like Edith, I have been growing garlic; the 20 cloves I began with five years ago are now making five dozen heads that will get pulled soon. The garlic, asparagus, and raspberries take up about 1/2 of the garden at this point. This year it looks as though I’ll have a bumper crop of potatoes, although the onions did not do as well.

    My husband hunts wild turkey and deer on our property, too, which counts, right?

    But the best part of our farm is the 30 acres this year of wild blackberries, spread out all over. I picked a gallon of berries the other day, and expect to host some picking parties in the next week or two. There is nothing like a wild blackberry pie or cobbler!

    1. Your place sounds wonderful! Here the wild blackberries don’t come in for another month or so–could you have black raspberries (or what in Northern New York we call blackcaps)? Those are my all-time favorite berries. We don’t plant them at my house though because they are so invasive and need a lot of tending to keep them in check.

  7. It was probably fifteen years ago that I had a bumper crop of yellow cherries, which I had to pit using a paper clip as I did not have a cherry pitter. So I bought a cherry pitter and have not managed to pick a cherry since as the birds (or squirrels) get them all.

  8. I’m in a condo in the city, so I don’t do any gardening. Actually, it’s a good thing I don’t have to survive on what I grow since I have two very brown thumbs.

    I like your comparison to writing. I can certainly see how some ideas work well and ripen and others die on the tree. Hopefully, you can figure out which of the two an idea is before you’ve invested too much time in it.

    1. I can usually tell the duds or impractical ones pretty quickly! If they don’t stick with me for a while before I start on them, I know they’re not for me. Sometimes I pass those plot bunnies on to other writers.

  9. Doc is a huge tomato lover, so we grow those plus herbs. With his broken arm this year, we had to sidestep our raised beds and are doing a few plants in large pots on the deck. Just as satisfying, but not the huge amount we usually get. Still, nothing like freshly made pesto! And yes, do use that mental down time to work on plot or story points. I get a lot of ideas going when I’m cleaning house!

    1. You’re right–fresh tomato and pesto, together or separately, are heavenly–especially when eaten with some good mozzarella. Hmmm–I rarely get ideas while cleaning house (probably because I don’t like cleaning, so my attitude doesn’t allow for creativity). But I do often get them while out walking.

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