Cherry picking in Central Greece: What I learnt about cherries, patience and love.
Cherries are expensive. No matter if it is season-time or not. On my day-off, I went to a colective cherry plantation in Central Greece to collect them and did not only find out amazing facts about cherries trees, but experience the harvesting of this delicious fruit in its pure form.
The sweetest cherries my mouth has ever tasted.
One hour and a half after crossing fields of olive trees, the predominate landscape in Central Greece and entering some fields with no paved roads, but just the memory of who has planted with his family more than a dozen of cherry trees, we are finally in a huge collective cherry plantation with a lot of baskets and 5 people ready to collect and why not to eat this precious fruit.
The first thing you need to know about cherry trees is that they are a short-season crop. Once they are picked up, it takes about a year to bloom again. Moreover, they may not produce the same volume as the previous year. They are very weather—sensitive, which means either low yields or bland and spoiled cherries. Cherries are a summer crop, therefore can be picked from late April, having a peak in mid-July with also the sweetest ones and an end in August.
Second: cherry-picking needs patience and love. In the beginning, when we first started, I took the fruit out of its stem, which is not the right way to do it. First cherry trees have often large leaves and you need to uncover them to see them all. Second, you need to tug gently to pull the cherry off with the stem still attached. This keeps the cherry fresh longer. Since they are very small, you can just grab just a few at a time, and start one again, and again, and again. Sometimes you might need a ladder to grab the ones at the top.
Third, but not least important, they are a quite delicate fruit. Since cherries are so delicious when fresh, they must be either sell right away or consumed. This link to the aforementioned facts increases their demand. So if you take in mind, the whole food chain from harvesting, transportation, distribution, and selling, it is normal for many cherries to get bruised or damaged. This, however, does not mean that they are not edible. To make the most out of them, aside from storing them frozen, you can make cherry-based products such as jam, pies, or juice. In fact, after one day of collecting them, we got a fresh homemade jam made out of water and sugar that could last for weeks in the fridge.
I am so grateful that I went for cherry-picking, it not only gave me the sweetest cherries my mouth has ever tasted, but also the awareness that behind every food there is hard work, natural processes, and secrets that are worth the price.