My friend Thom searches in vain for sour cherries every summer. He has fond memories of enjoying sour cherry pie while growing up in Maryland, but fresh, tart pie cherries are not popular here and therefore hard to find. A full tree near his building is too tall, and too far away to grasp more than a tiny handful of the red fruit. It’s certainly not enough to make a significant pie or tart. Any normal July would bring lots of different types of fruit in the market but Northwestern Washington’s fruit crops are late, and the berries aren’t that sweet.Luckily, there are farms east and north of Seattle that have some very good berries and stone fruits, but there are no sour pie cherries to be found at all.
Every year Thom asked his friends to look out for pie cherries. And like every year, I see only Bing and Rainier cherries, varieties best eaten raw like the decadent tasting Bings I bought last week. Sour cherries are like rhubarb. Beautifully colored, but sugar and heat make it a treat.
While walking around Wallingford over the weekend, I noticed two sour cherry trees bearing fruit. On today’s walk with Cassius, I stopped at one tree and plucked and tasted one very ripe cherry. It was tart, just barely astringent. Not sweet, but pleasant nonetheless. I looked up into the tree and figured I could get about a half pound easily. Around the corner was another tree with another half pound just ripe enough to pick.
I came home and emailed Thom who was glad to have any I could spare. Feeling like a kid, I walked back down the street where the two trees stood to ask my neighbors for permission to pick as much fruit as I could for a pie. I offered to barter lettuce and scallions or pay money for them but both people said yes without any payment. Grateful, I left plenty of almost ripe cherries for them to enjoy in a few days. I walked back up to my house and weighed the cherries. My bag weighed exactly one pound.
I emailed Thom, transferred the cherries to a ziploc bag and gathered up some lettuce and scallions as a bonus. Then Cassius and I hopped in the car and drove to Capital Hill where I handed my loot over to Thom, who then turned right around and made this pie.