Jerseygator's Blog

Cherry Pickin’

Posted in Garden,locavore by jerseygator on June 11, 2010

For weeks we’ve been driving past our favorite farm stand, Mood’s on Rt. 45 just outside Mullica Hill, to see when they’d be opening up the U-Pick season.  Finally it was announced that they were opening up with sweet cherries on June 7th.  So that morning, after some necessary gardening chores, I grabbed a basket and headed down to get some summer fruit.  The day certainly cooperated; after a weekend of 90+ degree weather, this morning it was in the mid-60’s with a light breeze and clear skies.  Perfect harvesting conditions.

When I arrived at 9am the place was already bustling.  An elderly man guided me to the parking area with a red flag and I made my way to the little stand, manned by friendly young women who weighed my empty basket and gave me a ticket with the weight jotted down.  I found an empty tree and started filling my basket with low hanging fruit.  Surrounding me were a variety of people; the next tree had two women laughing and chatting in Russian while the tree across the row had a young Hispanic family giving directions to each other in spanish.  Small children ran through the trees with brightly colored beach buckets and an elderly gentlemen held a ladder while gently guiding his wife, who had ventured a few feet up the ladder, to some elusive fruit.  People walked by holding all sorts of containers: tupperware, straw baskets, plastic totes, 5 gallon buckets and boxes were found in abundance.  One woman was bemoaning the fact that she had forgotten her wagon as she lugged two heavy pails of cherries.  I had learned not to bring too large a bucket for sweet cherries.  In our family, these are mostly for eating out of hand, not for canning or preserving.  I seem physically and mentally unable to leave until I fill whatever container I brought, so I limit the size!

And the fruit!  I didn’t even have to move as I reached up and plucked handfuls of ripe berries.  Cherries are the beginning of the season for me.  I like strawberries, but I LOVE cherries.  Not only are they delicious, but they’re so beautiful hanging down in little bunches with the sun streaming through the leaves.  I filled my bucket in about 15 minutes and made my way back to the stand.  On the way I heard one woman laughingly tell her husband he had to sit in the back, as she didn’t trust him up front with the cherries.  Another woman, just arriving, commented on how beautiful my basket of cherries were.  I could see that she couldn’t wait to get into the orchard to pick some for herself.

I had my cherries weighed; in 15 minutes, I had picked 11 pounds of sweet cherries!  My tab came to $18.50, a true bargain.  And not just a bargain in terms of money.  The carbon footprint for these cherries added up to the 10 mile round trip I had driven.  And there’s a difference between cherries that have traveled thousands of miles and sat in your grocery.  Just picked cherries have a firm consistency that is hard to define, that is nothing like the soft, often mealy cherries you buy in the grocery store.  Fresh cherries feel like they could bounce away if you dropped them.  And the taste!  On the drive home, with the basket sitting beside me (first mistake) I reached in and grabbed a couple of berries.  Wiping them on my t-shirt, I bit into one.  The firm flesh immediately squirted cherry juice down the front of my t-shirt as I relished the sweet-tartness of an early season berry.

Next monday the season opens for sour cherries, my favorite summer fruit.  Maybe I’ll see you there!


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