When you move onto an old property, it takes a while to become familiar with all the plants previous owners planted. Our property was blessed with a variety of fruit trees. There are a few apples—three varieties, from what we’ve seen, though we can only identify one of them. There’s a late-season peach. And there is a cherry tree. The cherry tree is old and had been damaged repeatedly over the years.
In the spring, the first years on the property, we would watch as the tree put out a few flowers, but we never saw a ripe fruit. The birds seemed to eat them all before they ripened.
Then one year the tree flowered profusely. It was loaded with cherries. But still, they didn’t seem to ripen before they were eaten by the birds.
That’s when it finally dawned on us—it was a yellow cherry! The fruits were ripening. The birds knew that—they can see the change in reflected UV light when a berry is ripe—but we didn’t.
Once we knew what the cherries were, we were able to get a harvest most years, in spite of the birds. It’s still difficult for me to tell when one is ripe by look, but I pick by feel—a ripe cherry is subtly softer than a nearly ripe one.
We still don’t know the variety. The fruits are relatively small. They’re sweet, but very heavy in cyanide flavour, and we can’t decide if they’re better for eating fresh or baking.
This year is a bumper year for cherries, so we’ll be able to have them both ways. This morning’s harvest was more than enough for a pie, so you can guess what we’re having for dessert tonight!