June is Cherry month in La Creuse… for a few precious weeks the trees throughout the countryside are filled with beautiful pink blossoms. Then, almost all at once the cherries are ripe- and then are gone. For a few days in early June we eat all the cherries we can stand- one’s yearly cherry ration in the matter of a few hours! Whatever is not eaten, packed into delicious Clafoutis, or sterilized into jars, will either rot or be taken by the birds if it’s not gathered fast enough… So Jaques called one day asking if I could come by that very afternoon for Cherry Picking- it was either now or never since the birds were already getting full! If we waited even a day longer they would be gone… So, I cancelled my plans for that afternoon and we headed to Eguzon gather all the cherries we could.
At Jaques house, we had a quick coffee and set to work: Cherry picking is serious business… Jaques’ cherry trees were enormous, and just to reach the lower branches required a step-ladder. But the real bounty was in the higher branches, some 10 meters from the ground! Huge bunches of gorgeous, ripe cherries were just waiting for the intrepid worker to make his way up… We went to the neighbor’s for some tall ladders and an electric saw, and set out… The men chopping whatever branches they could reach, the women on the ground frantically gathering all the fallen spoils.
As the afternoon wore on, our clothes were stained, our arms were sore, but the cases had filled up little by little with an incredible amount of cherries… Over 50 kilos of cherries in one afternoon! That night, the work was not over: The cherries had to be cleaned, pitted, and sterilized in jars before they rotted. We headed home to a quick dinner and set to work again… loading as many cherries as possible into glass gard to be preserved. The remaining kilos found their way into many a clafoutis, jams, and even some CHERRY WINE over the next few days…