Each late May we begin to look for the first crop of ripe cherries coming from California. Usually these are somewhat unripe, lacking in intense flavor and on the small size. Nonetheless, with memories of the final cherries devoured in the previous early fall, we buy them and eat them. We usually comment “ these aren’t as good as I remembered.”
As the summer unfolds, the cherries get bigger, redder and tastier. A quick look at the plastic bag reveals they are from Hood River, Oregon or Yakima, Washington, many miles north of the previous orchards. Cherries thrive on cooler winters, and these parts of the Pacific. Northwest are ideal. We eat as many as we can, knowing these too will be off the shelves soon. When finally we dig into a bag from eastern British Columbia, we know the season is near its end. Here are the dark red, huge, tasty cherries we remember. We will search them out again next summer and try not to jump the gun with California wannabes.
The entire experience of watching the crops move north always reminds me of the migrant families who moved from Southern California through Oregon onto Washington each year following the crops. Woody Guthrie pays them tribute in a song I have been humming, Pastures of Plenty.