For those who don’t know, it is high cherry season in southeastern Minnesota. I have a prolific sour cherry on the boulevard grass next to my house. For my family, this is a really big deal.
My maternal grandparents were dedicated gardeners. Their home in southern Pennsylvania boasted a veggie plot, blueberry and currant bushes, and a grove of several fruit trees. My grandpa, knobby as the trees themselves, would adorn his orchard with silly cloth snakes to scare away the birds. My childhood impression of him was that he was a stern man, but seeing him tend to his orchard with a sense of humor and sweetness set the stage for my softer relationship with him later on.
My mom inherited her parents’ love of foraging and harvesting, and she takes after her mother with her cooking and recipe development. In the late 90s, she and my grandma discovered a beautiful, bountiful sour cherry tree in my hometown of Cambridge, MA. They became set in the idea that they had to harvest those cherries! Using my adorable grandma as a decoy, my mom harvested the tree promptly. The ear to ear grin my grandma displays triumphantly in this picture shows that their harvest was a success.
Now I am a woman obsessed, and the build up to the cherry season is very exciting. The excitement that I feel is as much of a touchstone to the past as it is a grounding in the present. Cherries are evocative, and I pause to remember my beloved grandparents when picking them. They also are a reflection of St. Paul, and the bountiful summer we’ve enjoyed thus far.
I have harvested 8 pounds, and the tree is still producing! I’ve made little jars of cherry preserves which will be handed off to neighbors and friends. The cherries that I have yet to pick will be pitted and frozen for my mom and auntie to make pies with. The birds have been merciful, but will certainly go after some of them, just like they did all those years ago in my grandparents’ orchard.
This is one connection that I have with my family. Maddy has countless more with hers. These connections inform us, the people we are, the business that we do. The integrity with which we approach our work is a product of the way we were raised- by our parents, our families, our communities. I encourage you to look beyond the harvests you bring in this summer- be they edible or of another nature- and to peer into how they represent the past, the present, and the future.
Happy summer solstice to you and yours!