When I look back on the summer of 2013 I will think of it as The Cherry Summer.
For the last four or five weeks we have been enjoying a heatwave here in England.
I say 'enjoying' because it does not suit everyone. There are some who suffer in a scorching sun, many people have allergies which, I am pretty sure, were rare and quite exotic when I was a child, the dog doesn't do heat, driving is a trial when the air conditioning stops working, sleep is elusive when the night is hot and humid, tempers become frayed...
But it is possible to adapt and to thrive in a heatwave, a canicule, as they say in France where, after the canicule of 2003, they take such events much more seriously than do we Mad Dogs and Englishmen. It simply requires a little adjustment to one's schedule and daily habits, such as walking the dog at 4:30am before the full force of the sun's rays has hit the fields, and keeping the bottle of gin in the freezer, from which it will emerge, frosty and delicious once the sun has sunk below the neighbour's ash trees, and evicting a bag of frozen peas in order to make room for ice cubes and ice lollies and ice cream, and raising the hemline while lowering the neckline, and sleeping as close to the window as possible and au naturel...
And most of all, just jolly well enjoying the summer!
This year I made an important discovery while walking among my beloved walnuts...
which are, I am delighted to report, having a wonderful summer...
which makes me very happy indeed....
But this year I discovered a cherry tree.
How can it have happened that I, a self-confessed tree-hugger and explorer of nature, have managed to miss the cherry tree for three years?
"The cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit). The cherry fruits of commerce are usually obtained from a limited number of species, including especially cultivars of the sweet cherry, Prunus avium." (Wikipedia)
"The native range of the sweet cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A form of cherry was introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent by order of Henry VIII, who had tasted them in Flanders" (Wikipedia)
At first I was very restrained. I just picked a handful of cherries to munch as the dog and I wandered, and I pointed out the tree to my fellow dog-walkers, "There's a cherry tree over there, did you know?" But no-one else seemed to be interested in the cherries. So I took a bowl and picked a few and came home to sit in a shady room and eat my cherries and marvel at this free treat. And still no-one seemed to be interested in the cherries.
So I took a bag and picked enough to make a small pot of jam.
And still no-one seemed to be interested in the cherries and, other than putting up a sign saying "CHERRIES", there was nothing else I could do to encourage people to pick them. So I did.
Well, I picked enough for a cherry pie
and for a cherry liquer made with vodka and brandy
it needs to mature for three months which will make it a perfect Christmas tipple...
And then, inspired, I made cherry vodka
This will be ready in time for me to take to France.
I'm planning to take a bottle for a friend in the village who delights in giving me 'interesting' drinks to try after dinner.
I left enough cherries for the birds to feast on.
And plenty for anyone else who cares to pick them.
But no-one has...
There are other cherry trees growing among the trees on the other side of the green.
They're smaller and this one is quite sour.
I'm thinking a cherry relish to eat with pan-fried duck breasts?
This one is very, very small and very, very sweet.
And since it is ripe, cherry-ripe, and so abundant, I think more cherry vodka?
I can't understand why no-one else has picked the cherries. It's such a waste to leave them on the trees and they are so delicious. And the price of fresh cherries in the shops! I think my harvest would have cost me a King's ransom had I bought them, instead of picking them for free.
And it has been such a pleasure, this picking cherries...
And such fun to make jam, and pies, and delicious drinks.
I've frozen a few cherry stones.
As I explained to The Ragazza when she asked me why there are little pots of pips next to the ice cubes, they don't germinate until they've experienced a few sub-zero temperatures. I am hoping that they'll grow into little cherry trees which I will nurture and cherish and take to France to plant in my garden.
Cherish the cherries, that's been my motto this summer...
Cherish the cherries