• Orchard Update: The Cherry Harvest, Day #1

    Van cherries before harvest.

    Well after a longer wait than we expected, the cherry harvest is here! We are very, very excited, as this is the first real cherry harvest from our orchard. We netted the trees a few weeks ago and the extra work paid off. While the ants got a few of the cherries, the birds, wood rats and squirrels were kept at bay.

    Harvesting cherries is still a low-tech affair…

    Most of this day’s harvest was from the Van and Black Tartarian grafted tree. The cherries are mostly Vans. We planted the Van / Tartarian tree to pollinate the Bing cherry tree, but the bonus is another crop of cherries. The Vans look like Bings, but are smaller with slightly lighter color skin and flesh. They are sweet, but not too sweet, with a pleasant crunch.  We had a smaller crop of the Black Tartarians and they are really, really good. The Tartarians, not surprisingly, have deep purple color and flesh. The cherries are very sweet and incredibly juicy. The Tartarians are a pleasant surprise, the only bummer is that few made it out of the orchard- they were enjoyed straight from the tree. We will aim for more next year (perhaps another tree).

    Day 1: Vans, Bings and Black Tartarians.

    We also started on the Bing tree, which is dense with fruit on almost every branch. The cherries are ripening somewhat unevenly, so we will work the tree over the next few days. The Bings are a delight. There is a reason they are the most popular fresh cherry. They are big and sweet and one of the closest things to “natural” candy you can get. The kids think they are better than candy, and that says a lot. We had some off-season rain and concerns that it would cause the Bings to crack, but luckily all the fruit is in great shape. We will have fun picking the cherries for the next few days.

    Ready to eat. The Vans have the lighter color.

    While researching how to cultivate our Bings we ran across an interesting piece of history worth sharing. From Wikipedia:

    The cultivar was created as a crossbred graft from the Republican cherry in 1875 by Oregon horticulturist Seth Lewelling and hisManchurian Chinese foreman Ah Bing, for whom the cultivar is named.

    Ah Bing was reportedly born in China and immigrated to the U.S. in about 1855. He worked as a foreman in the Lewelling family fruit orchards in Milwaukie for about 35 years, supervising other workers and caring for trees. He went back to China in 1889 for a visit. Due to the restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 he never returned to the United States. Sources disagree as to whether Ah Bing was responsible for developing the cultivar, or whether it was developed by Lewelling and named in Bing’s honor due to his long service as orchard foreman.

    It seems a little bittersweet to us that Ah Bing was not allowed to return to the US. And regardless of who crossbred the cherry, it gives us a smile that Ah Bing’s work in the orchard survives and is enjoyed every summer.

    Eat out of hand, or make a cocktail. Cherry-lime Caipirinha, pretty good.

    Once we got the cherries in the house, they got a quick clean and rinse. We laid them out on the counter and ate quite a few. The kids enjoyed them and I even made a cherry-lime Caipirinha. Yum. For the next few days we will be enjoying the cherries in baked goods, perhaps ice cream, drinks and even a savory dish or two. Recipes soon.

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