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PHOTO: Zach Loeks
Just like cherries grow in a cluster, those who pick them can gather together to enjoy the sweet feeling of community.
And, just like it takes many varieties of cherries to stretch the season longer through different ripening schedules, it takes many different people and generations of pickers to get the job done right.
An Easy Grower
First of all, cherries are such a delicious summer fruit.
For us up in Canada’s Ottawa Valley, the sour cherry is a wonderful hardy fruit. Not only is it tough in cold northern and alpine winters, but it also offers high yields of disease- and pest-resistant fruit.
It also has a good tendency for propagation from suckers. This allows you to spread your planting over the years by simply moving new plants with a shovel in spring.
Within only a few short years, sour cherries begin to yield. And with annual compost, mulch and pruning, these shrubs will continue to give high yields.
Irrigation during ripening will fatten the fruit, and mulch will help maintain soil moisture.
Want to know more about cherries? Click here to learn the fruit’s history!
A Family Affair
So, why have multiple generations picking these wonderful fruits together? Well, cherry picking is a great opportunity for family, friends and community to get together and celebrate.
You can even space out for socially distanced picking on either side of the cherry shrub’s 6-foot canopy diameter. Everyone can safely chat, pick and feel the freshness of a summer day around them, even in these peculiar times.
But beyond the emotional benefits, it is functionally helpful for people of many different sizes—children, adults and everyone in between—to pick together.
Most adults will pick the middle of the cherry shrub easily. Meanwhile kids can pick the lower branches clean without bending. And those taller folks can reach up and pick the upper branches without a ladder.
Your dog may even try to clean up those cherries fall on the ground. Beware of this, though, as cherry pits contain cyanide and, eaten in large enough quantities, can poison our canine friends. A cherry can also block a dog’s digestive tract.
As my mom says, “Make sure the pup is tethered to the trees that are already picked with a bowl of water in the shade.”
More Than Just Tasty
Those cherries that do hit the ground are good food for soil life, too. When they decompose, the soil will embrace them as part of the cycle of life, returning nutrients to the trees.
The key to regenerative landscapes is an abundance that ensures there’s always enough for humans and other organisms alike. Worms enjoy cherries on the ground, and those that are too high to pick can be left for the birds.
Those in between are for us to pick. We each get a tasty treat.
And everyone can enjoy a day of cherry picking, regardless of physical abilities. Grandma can make lemonade. Uncle Jim can tell a favorite story, and the kids can have a pit-spitting contest.
Picking is perhaps the oldest community activity and one that lies deep down in our innate nature as humans, waiting to grow again.
The cherry, like many other wonderful edible perennials, can be included in our cultural landscape—yards, city parks and laneways—to enhance food security, community wellbeing and societal resilience.
Community gardening is good for food and family.
One Tree at a Time
Yes, edible landscaping and its rich bounty presents wonderful opportunities for the community to get together and enjoy the seasons, each lending a hand at the right ergonomic height.
It takes a community to pick a cherry hedge and an ecosystem to sustain it. And to get started, it only takes one of us planting a tree, a friend to lend a hand and someone else to be inspired to plant another.
In this way, little by little, we can build the landscape we want to experience and produce food we need. Every day, each in our own way, we can create the society we want to see.
Keep growing an edible and biodiverse world,