Because who can turn down fresh-picked organic cherries?
I went into Quincy today to pick up some mail that had been delivered to my last address. I figured that while I was there, I’d have an early lunch with Ron, the other pilot who works with me on cherry drying contracts, and pick up a few things in storage.
I knew that one of my clients was picking cherries and decided to swing by and see how the picking was going. Last week’s rain had absolutely ruined many crops and although none of my clients had complained, I wanted to see what the situation was without actually asking.
At the orchard, my father and son clients were busy working machinery to move around cherry bins. The dad was using a forklift to stack bins and move them into the shade before loading them into a waiting truck. They run a small operation with just 12 acres of organic bing, lapin, and rainier cherries. The pickers were deep inside the orchard, hard at work while the temperature rose steadily.
The dad took a quick break to let me know that he was happy with the way the crop had turned out. Yes, they’d lost some cherries to splits, but not as many as they could have. A bigger problem was soft cherries. He explained that when they plumped up and then shrank — due to temperature changes, I guess — the cherries sometimes get soft. This had impacted their bings. The packing house didn’t like what they sent the day before so today they told the pickers not to pick any cherries that were soft.
He then offered me some cherries. “Some of the pickers started early this morning before we could tell them not to pick the ones that were soft,” he said. “They’re in a bin over there.” He pointed to a bin of cherries sitting in the shade at the edge of the orchard. “We’re not sending them to the packing house. I was going to give them to my goats, but you can have as many as you want.”
Goat cherries. He was offering me cherries he planned to feed to his goats. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but it was worth a look. How bad could they be? After all, pickers had thought they were worth picking.
I fetched a plastic ammo can I’d gotten as a freebie from Hooked on Toys out of my truck and went to check out the cherries. I agreed that some of them were a tiny bit soft — but none of them were what I would call mushy. Otherwise, they looked very good, with few splits and nice color. I half-filled the container while they got back to work.
I admit that I worried a little about the cherries sitting in a black container in a hot truck for the three hours it took me to do my errands in Quincy and get back to Wenatchee. Sure enough, the inside of the container was a bit warm when I opened it back up at home. But I filled the sink with the coldest water I could get out of the tap, dumped the cherries in, and topped them off with a lot of ice. I swirled them around and around, washing them in the (literally) ice cold water while they chilled. I picked out the very bad ones and a bunch of leaves. Then I strained them and put them in a big bowl. They looked — and tasted — delicious.