A farmer neighbor often passes me in his truck when I’m out on my early morning runs and sometimes he stops to say hi. Today he rolled down his window and said just one thing: “Katie, it’s cherry season.” Then he gave me a huge grin and drove away.
He’s excited because he’s a cherry grower, and this is action time for him — the next few weeks will bring a flurry of activity to his orchards as he and his crews happily bring in their harvest. I also smiled upon thinking of this new season, partly because cherries are awesome, but also because it signals another turning in the season. In so many ways, the beginning of the cherry harvest is the beginning of summer around these parts. The sound of another neighbor’s cherry shaking is a sound I positively associate with consistently warmer weather and the start of all kinds of summer activity on the island.
If you’ve never witnessed cherry shaking before, it’s an astounding sight: a very low custom tractor-like vehicle with a big mechanical crab claw out front drives around the orchard, grabbing very large old cherry trees and then literally shakes them so that the cherries fall down onto tarps workers have laid below. The tarps are then pulled up by another machine that carefully collects the cherries to later go into pallet bins. All day long this time of year, we hear the sporadic hum in the distance of the machine shaking those cherries down! The kids like to ride bikes down with one of us to watch.
Our cherries are later than those in other orchards on the island. They’re an older variety and we like to let them get truly ripe before picking them (whereas cherries intended for processing are often picked before all the sweetness and flavor have developed). But, the kids and Casey discovered that the very first of the cherries in my parents’ orchard were “ready” a few days ago. There is one tree that is a completely different variety than the rest, and it ripens first. By my standards, the first few cherries they were eating weren’t quite ready, but children love the joy of finding the first of the next fruit! All summer long they delight in eating slightly under-ripe fruit because it’s the next thing! Perhaps this is the ancestral joy that has fed into so many consumer fads and fashion gimmicks that tug on our genetic desire to find the next food (only instead it’s the next cut in pants or a newly designed mop).
I like to wait for the first truly ripe editions of each new food, but my delight is just as deep and real. In winter, the periods between changes in our environment can feel looooooong and mid-winter the world almost feels like it’s standing still. It doesn’t, but by human standards it can feel that way. Meanwhile, June through September feel almost too packed with change — it’s a never-ending parade of new flavors and experiences. The beginning of the cherry season is just the start of that influx, or as Wendell Berry calls it in this poem, that tide:
Like a tide it comes in,
wave after wave of foliage and fruit,
the nurtured and the wild,
out of the light to this shore.
In its extravagance we shape
the strenuous outline of enough.
And, June also brings a tide of work as well (the tide actually began in earnest in May): so much weeding, so much mowing, so much irrigating to do in the next few weeks and months! It is on, my friends!
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Strawberries & cherries — Our first fruit of the year (strawberries) is winding down just as the next (cherries) is slowing winding up! Limited supply this week of these offerings until we’re in the thick of the cherry harvest. Soon! Then on to figs!
- Salad turnips
- Bok choy heads
- Winter Density lettuce — This is one of our all-time favorite lettuces. It’s everything that iceberg should have been: crisp, flavorful, and refreshing. The leaves are beautifully shaped and we love making “arranged” salads that really show off the deep green top part of the leaf and the yellow-blanched heart at the bottom. But it’s also just great chopped and tossed with your favorite dressing!
- Fennel bulbs
- Sugar snap peas
- Zucchini — It has begun! In our household, the start of zucchini season is reason for much rejoicing. In the summer, we eat zucchini daily as a base for at least one meal. I love telling people about how we honestly didn’t love it much until just a few years ago. Even while we were growing and selling it, we felt kind of “eh” about it. But we kept trying it, and then finally we found our way to zucchini love! And boy do we love it!
- New potatoes
- Garlic scapes