Tart Cherries

One does not speak of tart cherries (and let me be clear, I’m not referring to cherry tarts) unless one is serious about the subject.  It’s just not done in polite company.  So, I have to assume I am serious about tart cherries, because I am about to speak of them.  That is, if one can legitimately say one is speaking when one actually is writing and not uttering a word.  I claim writing can be a legitimate form of the term “speaking,” so you now know where I stand on the matter.

What you do not yet know is why I am going on about tart cherries.  Oh, and not just any tart cherries, but Michigan tart cherries.  You see, I know of no other tart cherries, so I’ll speak only about the ones with which I am familiar.  It’s a little bit of a long story, so bear with me for a moment.

In 1985, I moved from Houston, Texas to Chicago, Illinois.  Actually, I lived in Katy, Texas, but at the time no out outside of Houston had ever heard of Katy, so I claimed to be from Houston.  When one moves from Houston to Chicago, one is much closer to Michigan than one once was.  Therefore, one is much more likely to take long, leisurely drives along the back roads of Michigan.  And I did.  I did, indeed.  It was during one of those long, leisurely drives long the back roads of Michigan that we (my favorite wife and I) came across a roadside fruit stand.  We stopped and, you guessed it, the proprietors of this fruit stand were offering, for sale, tart Michigan cherries.  I had not heard of such a thing as tart Michigan cherries before that very moment.  I had always assumed all cherries were sweet.  All the fresh cherries I had ever had in Texas (none of which were grown there, by the way) were sweet.  None, that I recalled, were tart.  Speaking of tart, let me diverge from the topic at hand for a moment to relate a story I find amusing.

The incident about which I am now going to relate happened long after the tart cherry incident, and is completely unrelated, except for the word “tart.”  Just so you know.  I was living and working in Dallas at the time (well, living in Arlington and working in Irving, but that’s beside the point).  Two members of my staff encountered one another in the hallway at work.  One of them apparently had just put a piece of food or candy in her mouth that caused her to wince.  The other noticed her expression and said, “tart?” The wincer, without missing a beat, replied, “bitch” and kept on walking.  I have laughed about that on many occasions since.  But now, back to my story.

These nice people at the fruit stand offered to let us taste, without cost or obligation, a tart cherry.  The flavor was magnificent.  I had never in my life to that point tasted anything quite like it because, as you know, I had not eaten a tart cherry before that moment.  I was in love with the flavor. We bought a bag or basket or some such container of tart cherries and took them home with us to Chicago.  I don’t recall whether we drove immediately back to Chicago with the cherries; we may have continued on our road trip, and I suspect that is exactly what we did.  As with most things, though, that detail doesn’t really matter and has absolutely no bearing on the story I am telling, so please just disregard it and don’t give it another thought, for it will distract you from the more important points which I will relay, or perhaps already have relayed.

My memory tells me (and sometimes my memory tells me things that aren’t true, but this time, I’m relative sure it’s not lying to me) we used part of our cache of tart cherries to make a pie (I would not have been involved in that endeavor because, to the best of my recollection, I have never made a pie of any sort, nor has the idea of making a pie been one of my “must do” activities). But we used part of them simply to snack on.  And if you’ve never snacked on tart cherries, let me tell you there’s something to add to your list of “must do” activities.

The reason all of this came to mind is that I stumbled upon a recipe, while looking at or for something completely unrelated, for tart cherry pie.  That, of course, triggered my memories of moving to Chicago, driving around Michigan, buying tart cherries, and falling in love with them.  Once those kinds of memories are triggered, an online search for tart cherries (a search in local grocery stores would be fruitless; pardon the pun).  And, guess what?  I FOUND SOURCES FOR TART CHERRIES! Not freshly picked cherries, unfortunately (I guess I’ll have to drive to Michigan for fresh cherries), but I can buy canned tart cherries and dried tart cherries.

I suppose you’d like to know the source, huh? Well, I’m not one to keep good news all to myself, so I’ll share it with you in a moment, but first let me explain something. I talk of Michigan tart cherries as if Michigan is the only place to find them.  To be honest, I haven’t looked elsewhere.  It may be that they are as common as fleas on a dog.  But my introduction to tart cherries was in Michigan, and that’s good enough for me. I’d be willing to try tart cherries from another state, if another state would like to supply them to me. But, to date, no other state has bellied up to the bar, as it were.

Oh, by the way, as I was reading about tart cherries, I discovered that many, if not most, pie recipes call for tart cherries.  And, apparently, many (if not most) canned cherries for pies are tart cherries.  But I cannot believe that, at least not entirely.  I’ve had canned cherries intended for pies and they were ghastly sweet.  Maybe they added sugar, in a misguided attempt to make people who lust for sugar find tart cherries more attractive.  I say they should let those people find their own sources of sugar, dammit.

OK, finally, here’s where I found an online source of Michigan tart cherries.  If you want to buy five pounds of dried Michigan tart cherries for me, this is the place to do it.  And it will only cost you about seventy bucks (plus shipping, I’m guessing; I stopped looking when I realized it would cost seventy bucks for five pounds…that works out to, like, fourteen dollars a pound, if my math calculation capabilities are working properly).  So, without any further fanfare, here is the link to the source of tart cherries.  Well, it’s not HERE, it’s right down there, below here:

King Orchards

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Tart Cherries

  1. Thanks for your generous comment, Millie.

  2. Millie says:

    Hysterical! Thanks for laugh after laugh after laugh as you meandered your way through this delightful post!

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