Tart and Sweet Cherries

Yesterday, I met my friend Patti at Larriland (on Rt. 94 in western Howard County) to pick both tart and sweet cherries. The place was PACKED! I'm not sure how long the cherry picking is going to last, but there are still fields full of strawberries to pick, as well as spinach. I recommend that you check the website before heading out at www.pickyourown.com to avoid disappointment!

The tart cherries must have been a different variety from the kind I picked there two years ago. (Last year the crop was very small due to a late freeze and I completely missed the tart cherries!) This time, the cherries were larger, almost as big as the sweet ones, a much deeper, darker red, and much less tart. In fact, the difference between the tart and the sweet was almost negligible!

Both tart and sweet cherries are chock full of antioxidants which make them a very healthy treat for snacking. Tart cherry juice has been shown to alleviate muscle and joint pain as well. You can cut them up and throw them into sangria (yum!) or make a cherry salsa (leaving the cherries raw) or a chutney (made with cooked fruit, vinegar, and a bit of sugar). So many options!

I am tossing around a few possibilities for my tart cherries. No, I'm not making a pie. I just can't get past my many issues with crust: too many carbs, made out of flour, hate getting bloated, etc. In the past, I have made sour cherry crisp. Better than a pie as it has no bottom crust. I usually throw together a granola-type topping made with oats and almonds, which go great with cherries. I try to keep the sugar to a minimum. Just enough to make it yummy.

Last year, another friend went picking and made the most delicious sour cherry jam with just a hint of almond extract in it. It was outrageously good. But jam means you need to spread it on something. And that something is usually bread. And I have just managed to get the last of the sprouted wheat bread out of my house. Even bread that healthy leads me into overdosing on the carbs. I guess I could spread jam on a slice of chicken breast? Some deli turkey? Along with a bit of goat cheese? Hold the phones! I think I may be onto something here.

So the bottom line is: get out to Larriland (or the closest place to pick cherries in YOUR neighborhood) and start getting creative. If you come up with something awesome, let me know!