Tart cherries are softies, reminding me in texture of a ripe plum or grape. For all of the potent flavor and nutritious qualities of this Super Food, the fruit sure needs a lot of TLC. Which it gets, in spades, from growers and then here at home if you are lucky enough to get fresh ones and want them to last more than a minute or two.

The harvesting of the tart cherries was one of the best moments of my cherry immersion last week (second to eating all-things-cherry, of course). It’s more about shaking than it is picking; in fact, the harvest process is called shaking. When the harvest is ripe, it waits for no one, so they shake it all night long (that’s a direct quote; don’t you love it?) until as many cherries as possible are pulled from the trees.

The shake down goes like this: along comes a truck that has a big flat wing on it, looking like a wild mix of old- and new-school engineering. Friendly drivers move slowly so they don’t mow down the foodie paparazzi. The contraption grabs hold of the cherry tree trunk and in a swift shake up, a rainstorm of thousands and thousands of cherries fall to a gentle bed beneath.

The shake-up turns immediately into a chill down, bathing the precious cherries on the spot and again later. Warm cherries from the tree were delicious, but try pitting those babies and you’ve got nothing but mush; hence the chill for firmness. Pitting is essential to the process because the majority of the cherries will then be made into tart cherry juice concentrate, dried tart cherries, or frozen tart cherries.

It’s true that it’s easiest for you to find the dried cherries; I asked around here and found the frozen at Meijer, and put in what seems like my weekly request now for Glen’s to carry something I need, this time frozen tart cherries. I was successful with bags of za’atar, so I’m hopeful for the tart cherries.

Tart cherry harvest. A thing of beauty.

(Recipe is coming, I promise.)

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