When I turn down an invitation to a lamb birthday BBQ, it’s serious. When I decline knowing I’m missing out on a glass or three of Zengő wine, it’s even more serious. When I pass on an afternoon with good mates, you know something is up.
We have two cherry trees, one sweet, one sour. The sweet cherries usually pop before the sour ones with a respectable couple of weeks in between to let my fingers return to their normal colour after all that pitting. The blossoms were beautiful this year. We had high hopes for a bumper crop. And then the rain came. And the winds. And a quarter of what was on the tree ended up on the ground. Another quarter split on the stem, became waterlogged, and started to mould. But then the sun came and we could see a gradual mending take place, like some weird sort of cosmetic surgery. New skins grew over the cracks and while they weren’t the prettiest of cherries, they were still good.
Last week, we started eating a few that had turned that dark burgundy we wanted to see. They didn’t have last year’s sweetness and they were a little on the bland side. But they were still good. Perhaps not as good as previous years, but still good in the way that anything that comes from your garden is good.
But then the rain came again and the winds and more rain and we lost more berries. You know, I actually felt sad. Deflated. Upset. How weird is that? I was sad that I wouldn’t have cherry jam and icecream sauce and frozen cherries for my smoothies come December. I reckoned I could still pull off the cherry balsamic vinegar but the rest? Very doubtful. At least not in the quantities I had last year. I used up my last jar of cherries a couple of weeks ago. The last batch of frozen berries went last month. And the last pot of conserve is almost done. Perfect timing.
This morning, the sun came out. And stayed out. I’m on slug relocation duty as himself is away. I went out to inspect the flower beds, the new mint, and the tomatoes, picking up the slugs who’d come for breakfast and stayed for lunch and depositing them in the all-you-can-eat compost buffet. I checked on the cherries and saw lots of mould, that grey furry fuzz that Stephen King could write a novel about. Half of what I saw were rotten on the stem, but half of the half that was left looked salvageable.
Decision time. A scenic train trip followed by a lamb bbq and a couple of glasses of Zengő with my mates in the city or two days of up and down ladders followed by two long nights of pitting and preserving? Three years ago, I’d have laughed you out of it had you given me that ‘seriously, is there a choice?’ choice. But I’m strangely attached to my fruit and somewhat driven by this notion of self-sufficiency. Plus there’s the obligation to do stuff with fruit that is given so freely, a responsibility not to waste but to make more of. Am I mad? Perhaps. Village life, eh?
I spent a couple of hours today doing my research and have decided that this year, given the mutations I’m dealing with, I’m going to try my hand at making cherry and clove butter. I take comfort in the fact that being the foodies they are, Messrs Lamb and Zengő will appreciate the produce just as much as they would my company. Party on without me boys, Operation Cherry is underway.