Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

In 1995 my family bought me two cherry trees — one sweet and one tart — from a local nursery as a Mother’s Day gift. These trees were supposed to represent my son and daughter and would grow as they grew. But growing cherries, especially the sweet ones, is a bit of a gamble here in the Berkshire Hills, which is Zone 5a. The sweet cherry tree died in 1999 after a particularly cold winter, much to my daughter’s dismay, while my son’s ‘North Star’ tree continued to grow and to thrive. For the past five seasons it has been producing bumper crops of delicious pie cherries. It’s a semidwarf variety and would probably be at least twenty feet tall by now if I hadn't been pruning it religiously into a vase shape and keeping the top trimmed to around twelve feet.

It’s a great ornamental tree that besides being covered in white flowers in the spring has the added benefit of beautiful red fruit.

We cover the tree with netting when the fruit starts to ripen. It’s a fairly difficult job now that the tree has grown so large, but it’s necessary, or the birds will take all the fruit. There are too many catbirds, grackles, waxwings, and robins in my neighborhood! I don’t spray, so I will find worms in the cherries occasionally. Even so, there’s such a great quantity of fruit that I have more than enough cherries for all the fresh pies I can bake plus lots to freeze for winter. The cherries start to ripen around July 4, and the harvest continues for about two weeks. I picked this basketful tonight before supper.

I like to make cherry pie with a topping like a fruit crisp, using oats, brown sugar, butter, and flour plus slivered almonds. This weekend I baked two pies and brought them to work for everyone to enjoy. I sweetened the pies with some of the honey the beekeeper gave me when he took the bee swarm out of the cherry tree in June. With vanilla ice cream it was divine!

— Ilona Sherratt


Melanie Jolicoeur said...

Now I'm inspired to plant my own cherry tree — though I doubt my pie-making capabilities would be as good as yours.

Kim in Vermont said...

The pie was AMAZING!!!

Deb Burns said...

Can't believe I missed not one but two of Ilona's pies this week. But what a beautiful, productive, and clearly very happy tree, in the prime of its life!