Jun. 27th, 2009

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I grew up surrounded by fruit in the summers. Our house was in the middle of a few thousand acres of orchards of various types (apple, pear, and cherry, mostly), and my grandfather had a little 2.5ac. hand-tended cherry orchard of the kind you just don't see any more. Great huge trees, with 20' crowns, and you needed to stand up top of 12' picking ladders and stretch to get the fruit at the apex. Most of his crop was Bing cherries, huge ones with a solid sweetness that would leave us with purple stained lips and fingers for a few weeks each summer. He also had a few Rainier trees, and a couple of Queen Annes, (and one pie cherry tree that was reserved for grandma's use) as well as nectarines, peaches, and apricots. Plums and raspberries rounded out the bounty each year.

This is why I rarely ever buy fruit in grocery stores - it *sucks*. I can't bring myself to pay $6/lb for anemic little hard cherries that have little to no flavor. Thanks, but I'll pass, and go to the farmer's market and get some local fare. I can't get it year-round, but dammit, I'll enjoy it when it's in season.

One of the pleasures of doing so is finding new varieties that I didn't know about. I had never heard of a Macoun apple before moving up here, but it's now one of my favorites. Today I bought two new types of cherries: Emperor Francis, and Ulsters. The Emperors are a lot like Queen Annes - same red/golden variation, same semi-tartness, but a bit juicier and less fleshy. Very nice. A few of them have been downright *sour*, but I like those too. They give a nice counterpoint when eating a number of them in sequence.

The Ulsters, however... holy crap, these are the fruit version of sugar bombs. I thought Bings were sweet, but I swear to god, these taste just like Welch's Grape Soda. No, I'm not kidding, it's essence of grape soda, from a tree. The downside is that they don't really taste like what I think of as *cherries*, but damn if they're not kind of good in their own bizarre way.

In a couple of weeks, cherry season will be over again, and it'll be time to look forward to next year's crop, but now I have two more varieties to anticipate finding.


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