Saturday, June 9, 2012

When Life hands you cherries...

The cherry tree in my front garden doesn't live the easiest life for a cherry tree. It's on the north side of the house, and during winter/early spring, its in the shade for most of the day. It also doesn't get water from the sprinklers, so I have to remember to water it from the hose (which I forget more often than the tree likes, I'm sure). And then it has to deal with the wind... No wonder that in early March, when all the rest of the cherry trees (and other flowering trees) were blooming, it looked like this:
Detail of Cherry Tree - 3/9/2012
A few weeks later, it was blooming! Of course I don't have any pictures of that... But here is it about 2 months later:
Cherry tree 5/9/2012
You can see them hiding in the leaves...

At this point, they weren't fully ripe yet, but by Memorial Day weekend, they were, which is a little early. This is a Sweet Cherry tree, 'Stella', which ripens late May / early June. Interestingly enough, Sunset says cherries don't work in the desert (don't tell my tree!). 'Stella' is a self-pollinated variety, that can also be used as a pollinator for other sweet cherries. It needs 700 hrs or more of chilling time, which is low for a sweet cherry, and that's what makes it work in Zone 11. The tree wasn't staked when it was planted about 2 years ago, as part of the front garden overhaul. It is partially sheltered from the wind by the wall, but it is definitely leaning, like a lot of trees out here. I might need to give it some support, especially as it gets taller. Other than watering, I did give it some fertilizer (a spike) in early spring, but I haven't sprayed it for anything. Last year, something ended up eating the leaves later in the summer. I'll have to watch for that this year.

The birds were already starting to catch on the feast, and the tree isn't that big yet, so I decided to pick all the ripe ones all at once. Next year I'm going to try to leave them on even longer, probably with bird netting over the tree. But still, I got almost 3 pounds of cherries:
All the cherries of 2012 (plus about a handful that are still on the tree....
And I used them to make sweet cherry pie! I used this recipe for the filling and this one for the pie crust, and it worked out great! To share with the neighbors, I made mini-pies:
Mini Cherry Pies with home-grown cherries!
They were good (I had to try one before handing them out). I used a regular-sized muffin tin, and baked them at 375 deg for about 25 minutes, until they were bubbly and golden. Definitely a good use of lots of cherries. It makes me wish I had more fruit to use up. Hopefully next year, the peach and nectarine in the backyard garden will start producing?

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