The first time I read Homer’s The Odyssey, I was plagued by a confusing phrase. He referred to the waters around Ithaka as “…the wine-dark sea.” Being only 16, and never having drunk any wine, I couldn’t figure out what Homer was trying to make me see. Was it just supposed to sound funny and catch my ear? Certainly, the phrase burrowed in. My mind repeated it for days. Language has a way of haunting me — certain names need to be repeated. Some phrases will stay in my brain as long as that time I was stuck in the middle of It’s a Small World at Disneyland, all the animitronic figures dancing spasmodically without sound for 45 minutes. “Wine-dark sea” seemed to threaten to stick in there, bobbing on the waves without reaching shore.

And then, in a moment, I thought of my favorite afternoon snack. Bing cherries. The inside of perfectly ripe Bing cherries have a rich red color akin to blood, dark as Merlot and sucking to the pit. Their sweetness is belied by the tapestry color, the royalty and ominousness of red-leaning-toward-maroon-purple, the juice dripping so dark that my fingers stayed stained all day. If anything is wine-dark, it is the inside of cherries.

Suddenly, I saw why my English teachers always nattered on about similes and metaphors, about figurative language. It all seemed like textbook talk before, the hoops we had to jump through to complete our class and achieve a good grade. With this metaphor of Homer’s, swirling through my head for days, I felt what writers can do. I saw myself in this sensual experience and understood the longing Odysseus felt for home.

After all, that longing that lingers like a lump in the throat is just how I feel, waiting for cherries to come into season.

We had a long winter in Seattle, late snows, cold spots, and chilly evenings. Even today, when the light is leaning toward summer, the wind is blowing against the rattling windows. We turned the heater back on last night. Better that than huddle against the blankets as though we are on the frozen tundra. It just isn’t summer. And in some moments of the day, I think every citizen in Seattle starts to worry that we will never see the sun again.

This hasn’t been good for cherry season.

Normally, by now, the farmers’ markets stands are bursting with Bings and Rainiers. Last week, as I wrote in my last post, I found the first batch of Yakima-grown cherries at Pike Place Market. $3.99 a pound. It turns out they really weren’t that sweet, like the distant memory of cherries, how they taste in the mind in March. But still, I savored them. I even loved the pits and stems so much I took a photo.

While I am waiting for the cherries to ripen, I have been savoring the pickled sour cherries my friend Matthew made for me. When I read his post about sour cherries on, my heart skipped and fluttered. I must have some, I thought, knowing it might be awhile. But Matthew is so damned cool that he pickled up a batch in time for my latest visit with him and Iris. (Okay, I was helping re-structure his book manuscript for him, but still. I think I got the better end of the deal.)

As soon as I reached home, I draped some sour cherries (pickled with hibiscus flowers, balsamic vinegar, and cinnamon) on two scoops of lemon custard ice cream. Hot damn, I thought. I’m finally a pregnant woman, eating ice cream and pickles.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll make a sour cherry-rhubarb cobbler. There are worse ways to spend cloudy days.

Still, I’m waiting for the day that Bing cherries (and Rainiers) overflow the tables of my favorite farmers. I want to eat them, one by one, letting the dark juices dribble down my chin. Maybe by the time Little Bean is born, I’ll be able to taste that wine-dark sea. This has certainly felt like an odyssey, all these months of pregnancy. Soon, we will all be home.

And you? How do you like to eat cherries?

55 comments on “cherries

  1. Zoe

    The last lot of cherries I could afford, I pitted, cut in half, and then served in an Eton mess with broken meringue and blousy softly whipped cream. It’s not quite the season for cherries yet around here though, so I’ll have to wait a little longer.

    I’ve always loved Homer, especially the Fitzgerald translations. Just this morning I woke up far too early and watched the “rosy fingered dawn” creep across the sky – it’s another beautiful English summer day! Perhaps I’ll find some cherries and eat them as I revise for my last exam.

  2. Kacy

    My all time favourite fruit is cherries, however to much stone for me and not enough cherry flesh. As much as I love fresh cherries I can not stomach the glazed ones – unless sitting on the side of a glass of sparkling champagne, then this is a different matter.

  3. Mobula

    First time to visit you and i´ve found a lovely blog!!!

    I love cherries and I usually eat as a fruit, no cook, no baking…

  4. madre-terra

    I think that before you expire from the planet, Shauna, that you will have tasted just about everything that there is to taste. I truly appreciate your zest for food.
    Cherries? Hmmm…my favorite way to eat cherries is to buy them in Anacortes at a roadside stand on the way to the ferry landing and then eat them while waiting in line for the ferry. Unless we buy a lot they never make it home.
    We travel all over the US and nothing beats a Washington State cherry. All the others are just poor imitations.

  5. Debbie

    Washington cherries have been in the stores here (Brockport, NY) for at least 3 weeks. I am just like you: waiting for the sweet juice dripping down my hand and staining my fingers. The price: $3.99/lb. I still bought them because local cherries won’t be here until July. I have always used sour cherries to make pie, but never thought to pickle them. I think I will give it a try.

  6. sweetpea

    I had a premonition that your post this Monday would feature cherries! My favorite cherry memory: 20 years ago I took care of a 10 year old girl from the pacific northwest. She came all the way to Minneapolis, MN for complicated spinal surgery. After a three month hospitalization we had a going away party for her. All she wanted for the party were cherries, mostly because she wanted me to teach her the art of cherry pit spitting. It was too cold to be outside so the two of us sat in the stairwell of the unit and I taught her how to pop a cherry and spit the pit. We giggled so much as we sat there trying to out spit our pits and see who could get their pit further down the stairs. I am sure it is a memory neither of us will ever forget. I love Rainier cherries as much as Bing, but Tina is allergic to the Rainier’s so I don’t get them very often. We just love them as they are, the simple fruit. I do like a cherry infused balsamic.

  7. Elizabeth

    Greedily. Dinner last night was a bowl of cherries, eaten in bed. And I like a good cherry clafouti but tend to make it with frozen cherries rather than fresh; I love the fresh ones so much it’s almost a shame to cook them, sometimes.

  8. Zaza

    Fresh or in a “clafoutis” with the pits still on so you have to spit them!
    Good memories of travelling in France at 15…
    Don’t worry for the weather. Last friday, i made a fire in my wood stove. Since saturday, it’s HOT AND HUMID…
    AAAHHHH! Summer’s here, at last!
    Feels so good to swim in the air.
    And nobody’s complaining!

  9. tarambarker

    What a funny coincidence, as I am literally spooning amarena cherries into my mouth as I read this! (Have you had the Amarena Fabbri ones from Italy? If not, FIND THEM – they are soooo good!) We had them as the garnish on our gf almond wedding cake, which I just made again for our 4th anniversary, and they are, hands down, my favorite way to eat cherries. But fresh ones, without all that sour syrup, are also sublime. Especially eaten outside, on a hot day, with juice on my chin and hands, spitting the pits into the bushes. Now that’s summer.

  10. kate

    Ah, your post smacks of that much fairer grass on the other side of the fence to me. I would KILL for some cold, some rain, some relif from this relentless unseasonable heatwave that has been plaguing the east over the last week or two. My garden started off so beautifully, but has been ravaged by this spell when I simply cannot keep enough water on it. The little darlings are still hanging on enough to be rescued, but you can almost see the pitiful shock on their that this heat has caused for these tender young plants. Must water more.

    Anyhow, of cherries, they don’t grow here in NC (well, they might, with the right care, grow for a home grower, but there’s certainly no crop coming any time in the near future). For now, I’m slurping down some fantastic local peaches. Yummmmm. However, lovely Washington State was kind enough to share some cherries with us, and I couldn’t resist. I wish I knew exactly where they came from, because they were some of the most perfect, sweetest cherries I’ve ever eaten. And I eat them out of the bowl, because I cannot bear to delay that pleasure by dealing with pitting and then waiting for whatever recipe application to finish. Straight out of the bowl is the only thing that will do. Mmm.

  11. Zoomie

    I’m a cherry purist. Nothing better than fresh, ripe cherries washed and presented in a pretty bowl. They don’t need embellishment. You have my sympathy for your late spring…

  12. AMY VIG

    I too love cherries. In fact I love them so much that I rarely do anything with them besides eat fresh, juicy one-pound bags of them. Almost always in one sitting.

    I did have an amazing cherry ricotta focacia at the San Francisco Farmer’s Market one time though. I may have to resist eating the whole bag sometime soon and try to save some so that I can make it.

  13. La Niña

    Like the scene in “The Witches of Eastwick,” just a huge bowl of still warm Bings picked off our tree, one after another, after another, after another. Crispy outside, sweet inside. If Jack Nicholson picked them for me, I wouldn’t complain.

  14. babysteps

    if just picked, later that afternoon when they’re still warm but no longer hot. by themselves, outside, spit the pits.

    if cooled off all the way or refrigerated, with a little cream cheese or yogurt is really tasty

    If cooking the cherries, the chilled, drained-off juice is incredibly flavorful (and dark!).

  15. Beth W.

    I love dark red cherries halved and mixed with thick plain greek yogurt — the sharp/sweet/tangy/creamy combination is just wonderful.

    I had some amazing rainiers last week from one of the farmer’s markets in SF — they were expensive, but SO sweet and lovely. I have to think they came from WA — if you haven’t had this year’s rainiers yet, do.

  16. katie stone

    Few things on the planet make me happier than settling down with a huge bag of Rainier cherries on a sunny day…even better when I am somewhere that grows them locally and don’t have to pay $10 a pound like they are here in Colorado.

    Whole Foods sells dried sour cherries in their bulk foods section. Granted, they’re sweetened with cane sugar…but they are DELICIOUS to snack on and even better to rehydrate into a yummy meat sauce.

  17. Angela

    We don’t even have Strawberries, here in Spokane, either! Cherries are even later!
    Yesiree….they are my favorite fruit…and after having my third son last Summer, I think almost every snack was a big bowl of fresh ricotta with fresh cherries and a drizzle of wildflower honey!


  18. courtney

    I think cherries are one of those fruits that are best straight from the hand, in the back yard, or porch in messy clothes so it doesn’t matter if you get red cherry juice everywhere when you spit out the pit.

  19. Gluten Free Mama

    ooh ranier cherries. I honestly like to just eat them fresh. That, or make cherry pie, but I’ve never used fresh cherries to make cherry pie. you got a recipe you can share with us? Me, I’m most excited about my mother’s grapevines and blackberry bushes that are almost ripe enough to eat here in Texas. Hey, check out my blog, I blog about gluten free stuff and pregnancy and natural cleaning solutions. I’d love for you to check it out! 🙂 it’s new, so be gentle.

  20. Cynna66

    Cherries are love. I love them so much, I invested in a Dwarf NorthStar Sour Cherry tree this spring and will be planting it as soon as it arrives. My favorite way to eat cherries has always, always, always been in pie. Tender, flaky, buttery crust on the bottom with an intricate lattice on top and nothing but sweetly sour cherries in their own sauce filling the middle. A nice sugar crystal coating sprinkled on top the of eggwashed-lattice crust.. and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to be served on top of a hot, gooey slice. I’m just as content to eat them fresh picked and washed in a bowl. I also like to make cherry preserves and cherry-vanilla ice cream with them. There are endess ways to enjoy these dark and delicious beauties and I love them all!

  21. momcan'tdance

    Your little “tease” of seeing cherries at the farmers market was all it took to sway me! So, it didn’t take much for my youngest daughter to convince me to buy the cherries at the market the other day. To be honest, I didn’t even look at the price! You’ll see…one day, LB will give you “that look”, the one that melts your heart, and you’ll give in too.

    The cherries were beautiful to look at, but they still lacked that really ripened flavor. We sure polished them off quickly, though! We had heard of people being able to tie the stem into a knot with their mouths, and we laughed ourselves silly trying to learn the trick!

    Can’t wait for the truck from Washington to bring us some more!

  22. MicheleS

    SO many cherry memories…
    I grew up on a cherry orchard, work on a cherry orchard, and live at a cherry orchard in The Dalles, Oregon. The cold spring this year has been devastating to our cherry crop.

    My favorite is sunset drives through the orchard in my father’s truck, stopping at the best trees to fill buckets with ripe ripe Bings, Rainiers, and Sweethearts.

  23. Anonymous

    I have a childhood memory of picking sweet cherries from our neighbor’s tree across the field from our home in northeastern Ohio. I think I ate, branch to mouth, most of what I picked that day, and they were the best I’d ever tasted.

    Sour cherries grow here in Virginia and I like them best in pie with vanilla ice cream.

    Last Thanksgiving I tried a new recipe for relish in which I processed fresh cranberries with dried sweetened tart cherries, golden sugar, and cardamom. What amazing, deep, sensuous flavor!!


  24. Allison the Meep

    I like to eat them plain, but with ferocious pit spitting contests afterward.

  25. Mab

    I lurve cherries. Unfortunately it’s completely the wrong season for them in New Zealand, although the supermarket had mounds of air-freighted cherries from the US (beautifully polished, with no aroma or flavour to speak of).

    I think I’ll wait for Christmas when our cherry season is in full swing and content myself with the glorious pears in season at the moment.

  26. Megan

    Cherries to me are my birthday. The Fourth of July is always around the height or the end of the season here. My mom would buy them for me and tell me it was a special birthday treat. I would eat them till I was sick. I never knew Rainier cherries until a few years ago so my memories are of Bings.

    Oh, and I just eat them however they come. Fresh or in a pie, frozen in the middle of winter – warmed in the microwave and over ice cream.

  27. Anonymous

    That Gourmet article was awesome! I went out that very weekend and made the sour cherry pie and I’ve never made a cherry pie before. I’m defnitely making one again!

  28. Lauren

    I love cherries but then again I love just about every kind of fruit. Eat them plain sitting outside and having a spitting contest. Last year about the last week of June we (my family) took a day trip up to Waterloo NY my dad was looking at a Station Wagon he really liked and although he did not buy it we had lots of fun nibbling on fresh picked cherries we purchased at a roadside stand in upper Pennsylvania (I’m from Southwest PA) on route 15 they were the best cherries I have ever had and I am going to try and find a pick your own cherry farm this year along with the pick your own strawberry, blueberry, and apple farms we plan to visit this year. Ok second of all I just finished reading your book after receiving it yesterday from Barnes and Noble and saving almost 50% on it and another book. I read all day yesterday and this morning and I love it. It will remain a cherished book in my bookcase I will copy many of the recipes in the book and here on the site soon to create my own Gluten Free Girl Cookbook. So I do not have to ruin the pages of this wonderful book. I will first be read by my mother and then many more times by me. I will be asking my doctor at my next appointment to do a gluten intolerance test to see if in fact I do have Celiac disease. Unlike you and maybe others who could easily quit eating wheat and other grains it will be harder for me, I will buy up other flours to try and make a few things as I don’t know if I could give up a good French of Italian loaf of bread and Oatmeal I will be searching for Gluten Free varieties but I will be wholeheartedly trying to give up a lifestyle of junk and gluten. I plan to make my own blog mostly I hope I can receive some support from others. I am not sure fully if I have Celiac disease but I know I do have some of its symptoms. I also want to congratulate you and the Chief on you soon to be child and I do hope Little Bean is doing great.

  29. Beth

    I like to eat dark red cherries out of an antique fluted green glass bowl that my mother gave me! Something about the elegant bowl keeps me from eating them by the handful like a glutton!

  30. milhan

    I also like my cherries unaldulterated…for the most part. My girlfriend’s father soaks cherries from his cherry tree in various liquors – sambuca, amaretto, whiskey, brandy, etc – and then lets them age for awhile. They are mighty tasty little bites 🙂

  31. Julie

    I just eat them… I can hardly bear to cook with them.

    I did once make a recipe by grilling expert Ron Shewchuk (from his book Planking Secrets) that was quite spectacular: Roasted cherry tomatoes and cherries, spiked with balsamic vinegar and spooned over a small brie with the top rind sliced off, then… planked on the grill until the sides turned the colour of teak and the cheese oozed down the sides.

  32. jenA

    The best way is by the handful. The best part of eating cherries is the ‘thwpwoo’—spitting out the pits after you’ve scraped all the flesh off with your teeth. hands down. You can’t replicate that sound with olive pits or watermelon seeds. It’s entirely unique to cherries.

  33. Clean ClutterFree Simple

    I am in the sad position of having two cherry trees in my yard, one sweet one sour, and being allergic to both raw. Jam? Yes. Pie? Sure. Right off the tree? Only if I want a shot with the Epipen.

    Enjoy the cherries. Write luxuriously about them…so I can enjoy them vicariously.

    Bonne Maman cherry preserves = yum.

  34. Nicole

    I layer frozen, pitted cherries with plain vanilla yogurt and let them sit for a few moments; as the cherries begin to thaw, the yogurt around them begins to freeze just a little. While this dish is usually a part of my breakfast, it can double as dessert.

  35. kimberly

    My favorite way to eat cherries involves walking down the street to Alberg’s old yellow truck, where I buy several pounds of perfect, heart-shaped Lamberts… which are best eaten just as they are, in a rocking chair on our front porch.

    I also preserve cherries in almond syrup; they’re wonderful over lemon or chocolate ice cream (vanilla works, too).

  36. Anonymous

    oh cherries are the most amazing fruit. I always think cherries are about self-love. a few weeks ago, I was in Ferrara just south of Venice and being a bit of a high-strung and high-stress person, I was having trouble coping with the idea of being on vacation. But I hopped on my rental bike and toured around a little bit. I randomly found a tiny fruit shop, bought a bag of cherries and ate them straight out from my basket. Eating cherries while biking around the streets finally got me smiling. I always think cherries are this kind of fruit, the kind you just buy on a whim or share on the street with friends or offer to a stranger… no one turns down a cherry! And they are bound to make you smile.

  37. Sous-chef on the Run

    Hi Shauna,

    If you ever get the chance, take a drive across the mountains to the Yakima/Zillah area. There, you should be able to find (sunshine) and little cherry stands at some of the local wineries, e.g., Piety Flats. Last time Head Chef and I went out there, we actually stayed at the Cherry Wood Bed and Breakfast–it was a treat! (The owner, Pepper will take the best care of you and any dietary needs!)

    Cherry Wood Bed and Breakfast:

  38. Sho

    Whenever I attempt cooking with cherries, they are all gone by the time I get to them. I can’t resist them!

    If I only had an ice cream maker. Cherry chocolate chip ice cream of cherry sherbet would be great.


  39. Jen

    All by themselves or the new favorite – in a fruit salad with raspberries, blueberries and peaches then drizzled with pomegranate balsamic vinegar…
    Next it’s time to try a version of strawberry pretzel salad with fresh cherries! – Only change to the recipe to make it gluten free is to use GF pretzels.

  40. Kay aka dkswife

    Of course, I love cherry pie!!! But I also love the sweet cherries just as they are.

  41. thisrequiresthought

    bring me cherries in a bowl
    in a basket
    in a colander
    in a box
    in a bag.

    any way you bring ’em,
    just bring me cherries.

  42. Kirsten

    Hi —
    Cherries! Woo hoo! When I was expecting my son, I had an overwhelming craving for bing cherries. I bought three giant bags (in season) at the local grocery store for $50. It could not be denied — they were delicious and worth every cent. My son, now 2, caught the craving — he loves ’em and insists on eating them by swinging them into his mouth by the stem. So I pit them with the stems on.

    I also have memories of picking sour cherries here in the Hudson Valley as a child– big ripe handfuls from the tree. We’d pit them, freeze them, and my mom made cherry jam, cherry streusel cake, cherry sauce, cherry pie, and — my grandmother made a little pillow stuffed with the cleaned cherry pits — she’d use it like a heating pad by warming it on the wood stove. The pits hold onto the heat like stones in the sun.

    Hope your weather turns warmer so you can taste summer in the local cherries. Though, if it stays cold in the northeast, consider making a pillow from the cherries you’ll eat anyway to warm you!

    Love reading your blog!

  43. Anonymous

    I love them plain!

    Sweetest Shauna, I cannot lie, this last few weeks of pregnancy will seem longer than all the months preceding, and moreso if it is hot. You will be the irrational pregnant woman, weeping into her pickles and ice cream while the baby gains a pound a week or whatever mind-blowing number it is, lol.

    Enjoy it. It’s trippy to not be able to fit through a space you could fit into 2 or 3 days before. Blessings for safety for the both of you as you run up to the action of giving birth & being born! Omigosh! Talk about a cherry! Love, love to you, Elodie.

  44. jean

    I am swimming in cherries right now. Our tree has produced 1-2 thousand cherries this year – the most ever since planting it back in 2000 (we’re in silicon valley, CA). So far we’ve just eaten them off the tree, put on cereal, over ice cream, made a cherry crisp (GF of course), and last night I made cherry sorbet (I bought the ice cream maker attachment for my kitchen aid just so I could make cherry sorbet). I’m still thinking of other things to do with them – maybe cherry preserves. Oh, and we’ve given them away to friends and neighbors too. Normally we go on vacation in May and when we return we find the birds have taken them all but this year we put a big net on the tree- worked like a charm :-).

  45. Ishkadebble

    Cherries are one food that I always end up eating as is…. even when I buy them with plans to make a tart or pie or trifle. Without fail, I manage to devour the lot of them before I get around to pitting and cooking them. Yesterday, in bed reading Allende, a sticky hot humid Chicago night, I ate 1/2 a pound of Bings, cold, sweet, lovely. As I type this morning, my fingers are stained. Heaven.

  46. Bruno

    I am definitely in the out of hand, on the porch, pit spitting camp of cherries. But I just read a cherry ice cream recipe on Simply Recipes that has me jonesing big time for an ice cream maker.

  47. Melissa

    I am spoiled.
    My dad has a cherry tree in his back yard which produces HUNDREDS of pounds of cherries every year. Which means almost unlimited free cherries for me! If only they could be spread out for longer than a few weeks…
    In California, cherry season is in full swing! Yummmmmmmmmmmmy.

  48. Michelle

    In the middle of the cherry field, hot from the sun, with fake crow cries in the back ground (our local orchard does that)and spitting the pits out wherever

  49. Krafty Like A Fox

    Ha, most of the time you don’t seem like a Seattle transplant, but today, it showed a little. : )

    We who grew up in the PNW know that summer can start as late as after the 4th of July, but that summer can last until early October. Enjoy it!

  50. Janel

    I have to say I love them rinsed right out of the bag, as there’s a farm 15 minutes by car from our house that sells them. It’s one of my fave things about Holland!!

  51. liz

    My first experience with cherries were Yakima grown cherries in late summer. I have been in love ever since.

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