I'll be travelling a lot this month, so I've been making the most of my time at home this weekend, staying close to the kitchen. After taking care of all the fresh produce (canning, drying, you know the drill), I allowed myself to dig into the freezer for the wild cherries. Before Mark left for KY last month we harvested several good cherry crops, both pin and black. Generous soul that he is, he let me keep more than my share.
Pin cherries (Prunus pennsylvanica
) are the earliest wild cherries to ripen around here. This summer most fruit has been early, and the pin cherries started ripening the first week in July.
They're small (1/4-1/2" diameter), tart, and have large seeds, which makes for a lot of spitting and scrunched up faces if you eat them out of hand. Perfect for jelly, though. Contemporaneously ripe but absolutely not edible, are honeysuckle berries. Yes, they have a similar, bright red color, but unlike pin cherries, which hang in dangling clusters (see above), honeysuckle berries come in pairs.
Additionally, honeysuckle leaves are opposite and cherry leaves are alternate. One final i.d. characteristic:
black knot of cherry. It's a fungal disease that effects, you guessed it, cherry. Not honeysuckle.
Black cherries (P. serotina
) ripen a few weeks later, and this year (so very hot and dry) we started picking the last week in July. As you may have guessed from their name, black cherries are ripe when they're black. Clusters ripen gradually, so exercise some self control and pick only the black ones.
Unripe black cherries have a strong astringent mouth feel; spread the harvest over a few weeks for the best crop. Very slightly larger than pin cherries, black cherries are also tart and also have large seeds...another excellent jelly fruit.
Mark made pin cherry jam, de-seeding every tiny fruit by hand, because he is insane. It was the most delicious jam I've ever had and I didn't share a spoonful. I opted for the easy way out, combining pin and black for a sweet/tart, ruby/garnet, wild cherry jelly.
(See how big the seeds are!)
Wild cherries, you cannot hide from me.