The other day me and the other farm gals hopped in the car to make the 2 hour drive to a friend’s orchard for black cherry picking. Hundreds of trees (plums, apples, peaches, pears and cherries) graced the gently sloping hillside just back of said friend’s produce stand/market in Kelowna, BC.
Picking buckets in tow (strapped to belts hanging over the shoulder or from the waist makes it easy to pick any small fruit/berry as it frees up both hands) we were given directions to strip the trees as much as we could and take as much as we wanted.
70lbs of cherries later (plus 5lbs of sour cherries for a pie) we headed back up to the stand and were told we could pay whatever we thought fair, something less than $2/lb was all the suggestion we got. So emptying our collective pocket of $60 we transfered the fruit to the lugs we brought from the farm with visions of pies, jams, dried cherries and infused drinks dancing in our heads.
British Columbia has one of the longest and most reputable sweet cherry breeding programs around. Van, the variety we picked, was introduced in 1944 at a station in Summerland BC, which has produced 22 other varieties as well, some for earlier ripening, some self-fertile (meaning you don’t have to buy 2 of the same variety of tree just to get cherries to fruit) some for later-frost hardiness. The Van cherries are deep red, full-season cherries that can cross-pollinate lots of other varieties and since the trees themselves produce such a heavy abundance of fruit, each cherry is just a bit smaller than other trees that put all their efforts into bigger, but less cherries.
Since they’ve come home with us, some have already been freezer jammed with Pomona’s Universal Pectin (a unique type of natural pectin that has you use calcium water to help in the setting which makes it possible for you to use less sugar or honey in the recipe, check it out!) some have been pitted and frozen and some have made it to the dehydrator. I’m promised pie tomorrow by one other pie-smart farm gal and my share will be acompanying me in dried state for ease of toting around.