Entropy explains August in Missouri. Our gardens have slumped; the maturing fields of grains are marred by leaf disease; weeds poke up through the canopy. Lawns are a mass of rampant water grass. Disorder. Chaos. That will be the state of our landscape until harvest ends the madness and the world settles into winter.
This is just the tip of the cherry iceberg. I can’t resist taking home jars of cherry salsa and the barbeque sauce, unmistakably cherry chunky and cherry red, but you might eat a Michigan cherry as dessert in your holiday fruitcake, your black cherry ice cream, or in a myriad of other treats topped or decorated with a Maraschino cherry!
Many of the best beloved cherry concoctions are as man made as the machines that harvest them. The rarity and expense of true ‘Maraschino’ cherries encouraged cherry processors to democratize the treat by brining the fruit until it was a pale version of its former self, then infusing it with syrup and color until every cherry was the beloved hue children envision atop a hot fudge sundae. Candied cherries are super sweet, too, one of the reasons a fruitcake passes from generation to generation.
In today’s supercharged food climate, it is deemed insufficient to be beautiful and tasty; a food must cure what ails ye as well. Dried cherries and cherry concentrate (especially from tart cherries) are touted for its antioxidants and melatonin, as well as helping to ward off Alzheimer’s. I’m all for sleeping better, and Lord knows, forgetfulness is a plague, but something as versatile and miraculous as a cherry, or any fruit that appears like a Christmas in July present, shouldn't have to wave its flag like a medicine man.
Cherry trees begin bearing between three (for tart, or what we call, pie cherries) and seven years (for sweet varieties). We saw orchards in all stage of life, from three foot saplings with drip lines to ensure success to trees nearing the end of their 25-30 years of useful life. At any age, they make a graceful landscape, a testament to husbandry at the highest level.
‘The sweet things in life, to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you’ve never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh at it all.’
Ray Henderson and Lew Brown
In other words, just enjoy Blake's personal favorite, the cherry fudge…