At the end of last June, urgent notices of ripening cherries started popping into my inbox. The fruit-picking season had begun even earlier than expected, and for a couple of weeks there were cherry picks happening morning, noon and night, with picking logistics of bikes, ladders and other equipment racing to keep up. I started off my week leading a pick at the house of some dear friends, just a few blocks away from my home. I squeezed in a couple more the same week, as in past years loving the instant community and challenges of each new tree, and with each tree inspired to climb a little higher, to bend the branches a little lower. I ended the week with a non-official pick to get the last of the huge crop off my friends’ tree.
With a bucketful of cherries in the kitchen, even with my family of four working overtime to gobble them up, there was still plenty to store for the winter. With the help of my seven-year-old son, who (fortunately!) counts pitting cherries as one of his very favourite “chores”, I tray froze several batches, and canned several batches whole.
Now, in late January, my cherry-tree friends are coming over for dinner. I pull out a bag of cherries from the freezer, dust off my ice-cream maker, pore over ice-cream recipes and decide on Cherry Custard Ice-Cream. Summer and deep winter seem to be my prime ice-cream making seasons.
After dinner, we savour the ice-cream and reminisce about the cherry tree and its bounty. I feel myself crouching on my friends’ porch roof, in the long evenings of late June, embraced by the branches of that giant cherry-tree, looking over the roofs, gardens and laneways of our west Toronto neighbourhood and watching the first glimmer of dusk falling. I’m grateful for the abundance of nature in the city, for picking food with my own hands, and for the web of connections that I’m being woven into. And now, eating cherry ice cream in late January, I smile, realizing that I’m more than half-way through the year until fruit-picking season begins again!