I love cherries, have for as long as I can remember. I was very excited about coming to China and especially Haiyang, Shandong because it is the center of China’s cherry producing area. I am just finishing my first year in country and missed last year’s cherry season.
I was very excited to see the blossoms coming onto the trees a few weeks ago. I loved the way the smell of the blossoms filled the air. Even driving on the highway through the farms at 100 km/h (70 mph) the smell was strong. The air was still chilly but I rode with the window down and enjoyed the aroma. I was looking forward to the time when the cherries would be ready.
We had just picked a bunch of strawberries and ALL of the canning bottles we had were filled with jam. We couldn’t find bottles, well that isn’t really true. Actually most of the bottles being sold in the US now are made in China, many of them just down the road in Qingdao. The problem is I can buy 10,000 bottles but I can’t find a few dozen. The Chinese people don’t can or bottle. Somewhere in the past the understanding or ability to do this was lost (maybe they never did I don’t think I will ever know because the people I know have never heard of it). I am now stuck in the middle of cherry country and don’t have the means to save the cherry for future consumption. Woe is me!
The past few weeks the cherries have matured and the early ones have been making their appearance at the markets. We are now in full-blown cherry overload. The vendors and peasants are lining the streets and corners with the day’s pickings. I have never seen so many cherries. I am in heaven. There are so many varieties that I have never seen before. I have tried some good ones and some that are not quite ready for prime time.
There is the equivalent of the Bing cherry. There are some that are small, just a little bigger than a chokecherry. We see a pale yellow and a blush pink, each with its own unique flavor and texture but all delicious. It is an overload for the cherry lover that I am.
The peasants line the street with a basket or two of their cherries, some big and some small. We stroll down the street. They call to us in Chinese or in some cases practicing their best HELLOs in hopes that we will stop at their space and taste and purchase. The choices seem almost limitless. We spend such a small amount for the fruits of their labors. A kilogram (2.2 pounds) typically costing less than $2 USD.
There is an abundance of cherries. The pain is that the opportunity to preserve this delight for the winter is so limited. How could we have known that something so simple as a glass jar with a screw top lid would be impossible to find in this country? It defies my understanding that this country, where famine and hunger are still recent memories, doesn’t utilize this 100 year old technology to preserve the bounties of the harvest. I guess it helps to explain why they have hunger since they don’t utilize the technology to preserve the bounty of the year for times of want.
I get cherries of all kind. The little ones, the big ones, the blush pink, the pale yellows all are part of the sampling that we enjoy. I love to mix them in my mouth and enjoy the surprise of the bite as they explode and share their flavor. Oh, it really doesn’t get much better than this.
The small cherries are sweet and tasty, a perfect topping to some granola for breakfast. They are so juicy that I just skipped the milk. A mouthful of little cherries, spit out seeds, and then a spoonful of granola, oh, heaven!