Washington Fruit: Simply Irresistible
It’s July and cherry season is in its peak. How do I know? Well for starters, Traverse City, Michigan just finished hosting the National Cherry Festival this past week, and you know that if people are holding festivals for something, it’s probably in season.
Cherries in any form have always been my favorite fruit.
Everything from the fresh, on-the-stem, pit included Bing to the highly sweetened and often overly processed Maraschino “Cherries.” Having grown up in an area of Texas in which the grocery store shipped cherries from unknown locations (probably California or Michigan), the delicious little fruits were always far too expensive to buy with any regularity, even at peak season.
Despite this, without fail, I always managed to beg my way into a small bag of cherries perhaps once a year. As potent as my begging might have been, my mother was probably more interested in the fact that it was one of the few fruits I would eat with any fervor. Thus, I was given the chance to enjoy a small bag of fresh cherries from time to time.
Life eventually brought me to Washington, and at the time I had no idea that I had moved smack into the middle of cherry country. I recall moving here in early June. Cherries seemed to be about the same price they had always been. However, once July rolled around that price started to drop – drastically. $3/lb… $2/lb… and at one point $1/lb for Bing Cherries. I was shocked! I came home with armloads full of cherries, both Bing and Rainier, the latter of which I had consumed perhaps a small handful of over my lifetime. It was luxurious!
But what does one do with so many cherries? My preference? Eat/Use them fresh. As I understand it, neither Bing, Rainier nor any other “sweet” variety holds up well to much baking or cooking, though drying them and/or including them in salsa seem like appropriate uses.
Sour cherry varieties (Morello, Amarelle) are what one would use for pies, cobblers, tarts, preserves, etc. Unfortunately, relative to the rest of the world, as a country we just don’t produce that many sour cherries. In fact, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the US ranked 6th in sour cherry production, behind Poland, Turkey (who also produces the most sweet cherries in the world), Russia, Ukraine, and Iran. Oh, to live in Turkey!
I spoke briefly with one of the sellers at Tiny’s Organic, who told me that between the climate, soil, and elevation, Washington just isn’t an ideal place for growing any sour cherry varieties, so finding them fresh here is rare. Most sour cherry production in the United States comes out of Michigan.
After some searching, I managed to find a recipe that called specifically for sweet cherries (Bing or Ranier). Clafoutis is best described as a French pancake-like dessert that would be equally as delicious served after dinner or as part of a Sunday brunch.
Pits in or pits out, it’s a fantastic, easy to make dessert; the name alone will impress your guests.
In any case, if you live in an area where cherries are locally harvested, count yourself among the lucky ones and take full advantage of the fact that you can go out today and buy cherries that were picked yesterday.
Until next time! Eat. Drink. Be inspired.