My friend, who is also my landscaper (I’m giving a shout out to MeadowLark Landscaping) was instrumental in helping this novice mid-western gardener, who grew up in the lush zone 8 of the Pacific Northwest, transform this barren wasteland of a yard in to a paradise of privacy and beauty. My mandate, when she first started helping me pick out plants, was plant nothing that shed something which nature did not naturally consume or compost. Until a couple of years ago, other than my summer annual produce, it never occurred to me to have a tree or bush that produced something HUMANS would consume! She suggested a dwarf cherry.
“Too big,” I said. “I’m short, I’m not getting on a ladder to pick fruit.”
No, she convinced me, a dwarf cherry would be lovely on the corner of my house to create some privacy for the front door and as an added benefit I would have tart cherries to cook with.
Well, how can one turn that offer down?
So this is my little dwarf cherry tree. Cute, isn’t it?
At it’s tippy top, I do have to reach up and pull the branches down for me to reach, but this is about as big as it will get. However, as it ages, it will become more productive.
[2015 update: I picked nearly 20 pounds this year. Tart Cherry Jelly will be canned soon!]
While cleaning out our garage for the up and coming graduation party, I noticed many of the berries were ripe. Having competed with (and lost) the ‘first dibs’ battle with robins before, I grabbed a tray and started picking. In the photo above, you can see there are still a lot left on the tree for a future use. Here is the fruit of my easy labor:
For the remaining on the tree, after they have ripened, I’m thinking pickled cherries inspired from a blog I read by GlutenFree Girl and the Chef. She posted the link to the recipe by Matthew Amster-Burton on Gourmet, so when these babies ripen they are destined for pickling!
After a long hard day working in the garage and yard weeding, a sweet cherry treat is exactly what I was drooling for. Scanning the web for ideas, all but one seemed too time consuming and lengthy, dirtying too many dishes. Yes, I wanted dessert, no I didn’t want the mess after ‘cleaning’ all day. And since it was pushing 5pm, it had to be fast and easy. Reading endless critiques about tart cherry pies and that awful canned pie filling, it dawned on me….fresh cherry pie filling is not so different than macerated strawberries. What if i substituted fresh cherry filling for strawberries over a ‘shortcake’? YES! And what better to go with cherries than chocolate?
Normally I would make my famous cream scones, but I was looking for quick, easy and as little dish mess as possible. Pamela’s Pancake and Baking mix to the rescue. Since I happened to have a scone pan form (I bought it before I found Pamela’s Artisan Flour and perfected my traditional scones) it was easy to modify her simple recipe by adding chunks of chocolate, plop the blobs in and bake, turning them out to cool! In minutes, with only a couple of dishes to do, I had dessert, fresh from my garden. Voila! A beautiful sight to behold!
Easy Tart Cherry ‘Filling’
Approximately 2 generous cups of pitted tart cherries (be sure to pit over a bowl to catch the juices)
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of half an orange plus it’s zest
1 star anise (optional)
4 tsp GF Arrowroot starch
1/2 cup water-if needed. My cherries were extremely juicy.
Place in a 3-4 quart pan over a low heat and bring cherries to just under a boil, DO NOT BOIL. Make a slurry with the arrowroot (mix with a tablespoon of water to create an emulsion) and add to the cherries. Stir until combined, turning heat off. It should thicken quickly. (Do not boil, as this will weaken the arrowroot starch) Cool, refrigerate until needed, but you can serve it warm over ice cream too! NUM!)