• 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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  • Orchard Update: Cherries And Raspberries!

    Early Van Cherries

    Nature always surprises us. This year we expected hoped to get a good crop from the orchard and berry patch, but did not expect much until June and beyond. But as we had our first warm snap, the raspberries and cherries (at least some of them) decided that now is the time- and we have fruit! Awesome. Just awesome. I won’t lie, we both started giggling like bad movie villains as we tasted the cherries, they were such a surprise we felt like we were getting away with something. And since we beat the birds to the cherries, I think we did!

    The cherries “hide” under the leaves, you need to look closely to find them

    The early cherries we have are Vans, a bright red, “sweet” cherry. The taste is sweet, but with a little tartness for balance. The flesh is dense and with a bit of pleasant crunch. Good stuff and perfect for simply eating out of hand (or in a Cherry Fling Cocktail). The Van is a great cherry to have in the orchard as it will pollinate with any cherry variety and is itself a good pollinator of other cherries. (If you really want to get into it, the Rainer cherry is a mix between the Bing and Van cherries, not sure what you can do with that, but there you go…). The tree in the photo is a hybrid tree with Van and Black Tartarian cherries grafted to the same trunk. It is somewhat odd to see one branch with ripe cherries and one with very green cherries, but this just means our cherry season lasts longer. We can live with that. Meanwhile our Bing cherry tree is covered with green fruit that is just starting to ripen, we can’t wait.

    Golden raspberries

    As for the berries, our golden raspberries also came in early. We always get a good, sustained yield from the bushes, but did not expect them so soon. The golden raspberries are simply an albino variety of  red raspberries. Neither of us can remember why we went with golden raspberries, but they are sweet and tasty, just like a red raspberry. And they certainly are pretty with their gold and rose colors. These berries rarely make it out of the orchard or garden. We simply pull a few and eat them as we work, a nice treat through the summer.

    Red raspberry blossom

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