Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wind, Rain & Cherries

Just as the California cherry season was nearing its peak in early June, a series of storms soaked the orchards, dumping two inches of rain in a single windy grey weekend. The rainfall was bad news for cherry growers, as ripe cherries readily absorb excess moisture which causes the fruit to swell and crack; the fissures invite spoilage and mar the appearance of the fruit.

But bad news for growers is not necessarily bad news for cherry lovers this year. Flavorful juicy cherries, some with blemishes but most of which are perfect (as in photos above) are in plentiful supply at low prices in small neighborhood produce markets. Supermarket chains don't purchase cosmetically imperfect fruit, nor can it be exported. California sells thousands of boxes of cherries to Japan and other Asian countries annually; this year much of that part of the harvest must be sold locally. Although a portion of the cherry crop has been damaged and growers may not have a profitable year, it looks like there will be no shortage of fruit on this side of the Pacific rim.

Our brief California cherry season ends in mid June, soon to be followed by the Pacific Northwest crop from Washington and Oregon which will provide a second much larger wave of delicious fruit, most likely throughout the month of July. So in spite of wind and rain or because of it, this summer cherry lovers will eat their fill.

Note: Wash cherries thoroughly. Damaged fruit should be removed and composted. Blot cherries dry and store loosely wrapped in plastic bags in the fridge where they should keep well for at least two weeks.