Grab a cherry and sit down for this berry special read
Last year I decided to pick a big overflowing basket of our sour ‘Montmorency’ pie cherries to bring to the Brownsville Farmers’ Market. Excited about the product and proud of their rare tart complexity, I imagined the little bright red buggers going fast. It turned out that they were a popular item, especially with one friendly customer who passed through market that day. At the sight of the gems, she simply asked: “are those Door County cherries?” Stunned, I murmured a sheepish affirmative response through a wide grin. I am a native of Wisconsin, a state which claims the Door Peninsula as one of its treasures, the thin pointed outcropping that begins at Green Bay and stretches out and up into Lake Michigan, nearly tickling the southern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Wisconsinites and Illinoisans alike flock to Door County every summer to stock up on the famous pie cherries, and my house growing up was known to have a container or two kept in the freezer. Just thinking that someone I’d never met and who knew nothing of my origin came up talking that kind of midwestern mumbo jumbo was just unreal, one of those great spontaneous delights that one finds at the Farmer’s Market. Needless to say, I gave that nice lady a handsome deal on my Linn County Cherries.
Berries and cherries serve as such wonderful announcers of summer, and are undoubtedly prized for satisfying our sweet tooth long before the other fruits and veggies present their naturally ripened sugars. For many of us, berries serve as the focal point for diverse childhood memories, from family outings at the U-pick farm to imaginative play sheltered by thorny brambles in the backyard, there’s part of us that just doesn’t age when we see the berries start to come on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an Oregonian proclaim in a salty-sweet tone, “my summer job as a kid was picking berries, paid by the pound.”
The battle with temptation certainly becomes dramatic about now, with cherries and raspberries turning color and exhibiting decent sweetness, but mainly as tease to the full ripeness that we are all well acquainted with. The aforementioned pie cherries are already so very bright red, but when 100%, they look every bit like the cartoon-red doubles consumed by Pac Man in the classic arcade game. Its a bit unfortunate that we’re not the only ones who revel in the arrival of these fruits. The flock of Cedar Waxwings that occupied the farm a couple weeks ago will surely be back for the cherry feast, along with endless other species that benefit from our generosity on that account. When the worms take over will truly mark the end of our stone fruit season, but the ever-bearing berries will be here to carry us through the rest of the warm season, rewarding stubbornness with stomach aches after repeated binges at the bramble.
What kind of berry are you?