“Following the Crop”

Fresh California Cherries

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.

32 thoughts on ““Following the Crop”

  1. At the moment, there are only imported cherries here, and they are prohibitively expensive. Later in the year, will will get twice as many British-grown cherries for the same price. I only like the very dark plump ones, so my cherry-eating season lasts little more than two weeks.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. From the UK, near to Nottingham. The season is very short – from mid-June to mid-September, with late-season cherries coming from Scotland. Production in 2000 was only 559 tonnes, and supermarkets stock cheaper fruit from Spain, Turkey and the US!

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  2. I love cherries and look forward to them every year, always waiting for the ones from Yakima. I love the dark red-purple Bings but also love the yellow Rainiers. Surprisingly my husband doesn’t like cherries so I have to eat them all!

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  3. Our neighbour has a cherry tree and we benefit from it every year.
    The cherries all seem to ripen at the same time, but we have to pick them all together anyway, because if we leave them for even a day, the birds have pinched the lot!

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