It’s Cherry Season! Soon those cherries will be falling off the bushes so you’d better grab them now. It’s easy to get lots of lovely ripe cherries off a bush – this batch took me about 15 minutes. There are two methods to quick and easy cherry picking:
Method #1. Tickle A Cherry Bush
When your cherries are fully ripe, select a branch and place a wide container under it to catch the berries. Starting at the ‘root’ of the branch (where it meets the trunk), wiggle the fingers of both hands in between the leaves and the branch, in a tickling motion, gently coaxing the cherries off the bush. You will have to make several tickling passes per branch. Only the ripe berries will fall off when tickled. I think it actually helps to remember that you are ‘tickling’ the cherry tree – this will make sure you don’t pull too hard and break any of the cherries.
I prefer the tickling method when I go hunting for cherries in public spaces or in neighbor’s yards, as it allows me harvest the cherries right away, at the height of their firm ripeness.
Method #2: The Drop-Cloth
Some cherry bushes loose their fruit onto the ground when it becomes over-ripe. Not all cherry bushes do this, but if you are lucky enough to have the right type, this method is definitely the easiest.
When your cherry tree is ripe, spread blankets, bedsheets or towels underneath it, smoothing them down flat. Make sure the center of each blanket is lower or level to the outsides. When the cherries naturally drop off the bush, they will collect on your blanket. Cherries may take between 1 – 4 days to drop, but it often happens in one fell swoop – so check your blankets often. You can also give your cherry bushes a shake a couple of times a day to speed the process along. Then carefully gather up the edges of your blankets, and cackle over your massive cherry harvest!
The Drop-Cloth method works best if you have a cherry bush in your own yard, as you have to leave a blanket down and wait for the cherries to drop. It is the easiest method, but the cherries will be quite soft; however they are still suitable for juice, syrups, or jellies with added pectin.
What do you do with all those cherries?
You GARBLE them!
Garbling is the process of removing the leaves, bugs and bits from your harvested cherries.This is also a very simple process if you know how to do it:
The pictures above pretty much sums it up. After you scoop out a handful of leaves and bits, stir the cherries up a few more times to allow the rest of the junk to float to the surface. Unripe cherries or bad cherries will also float to the top sometimes, and when you’ve scooped it all out, you end up with bright, clean cherries. If you are picky, you can now rinse them in a colander for extra squeaky clean points.
Sweet! Clean Cherries! Now What?
There are a few options for your cherries, and 1 important safety note.
Safety First: Raw cherry pits contain hydrocyanic acid and other cyanins – the cousins of cyanide. This has led to warnings about consuming certain amounts of fresh or raw cherry products that were processed with the pits still in. Nobody can say for sure what amount of cherry pits is harmful to any one particular human. Of course, you can just spit the pit out or discard it when you make juice or jelly.
I’m planning on making cough syrup with some of my cherries, and that hydrocyanic acid will actually play a medicinal role in the formula! To learn how to make cherry cough syrup and see the other recipes I used my cherries in, check out my next blog on cherries (coming up next week). For now, I’ll be freezing my clean cherries in large freezer bags (the ones I don’t eat, anyway), so they’re ready when I need them.