BC Cherries

Ready to (sour cherry) crumble?

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BC cherries are a summer fruit in Canada. In  the Southern Hemisphere they are a Christmas fruit, since they ripen in December Down Under.

Growing Conditions

Cherries can be difficult to grow. They need a sustained cold period for the fruit to develop but not below -20’C.; they hate wetness, and too much rain makes the cherries split. The temperate climate in BC’s dry interior valleys gives almost perfect growing conditions.  Cherries have been part of the BC commercial fruit-growing sector since Lord and Lady Aberdeen had the first orchards planted on their Coldstream Estates in the 1890s. Cherries did very well in BC until the little cherry disease struck in the 1930s  – it is caused by a virus transmitted through the rootstock that results in small, flat-tasting, inedible fruit. Whole blocks of infected cherry orchards had to be destroyed.  The BC Tree Fruit Production Guide  provides information about preventing the spread of little cherry disease such as not interplanting new cherries with old stock. It is illegal to plant Japanese flowering cherries in the Okanagan, Similkameen or Creston Valleys because they are symptomless carriers of the little cherry disease.

BC cherry-growers have recently found that cherries are becoming more profitable thanks to the 2014 China Cherry Trade Agreement which allows BC cherries to be imported to China. However it can take up to seven years for a cherry tree to mature, so changing from one crop to another is not a quick process.

Sweet cherry varieties grown in BC include Rainier, Van, Chelan, Lapin, Sweetheart, Skeena, Staccato, Christalina and Bing. “Sour” cherries are thought to be a cross between ground cherries and sweet cherries. Montmorency sour cherries are the most commonly grown variety in BC, and they are hard to find except at farmers’ markets or frozen. If you come across sour cherries, get ready to make pie or crumble! To help you out, here’s a recipe:

Sour Cherry Crumble

Stem and pit four cups (1/2 kg.) sour cherries.

Mix with 125 mL. sugar (1/2 c.), 45 mL. cornstarch (1 1/2 Tbsp/) and pinch of salt.  Stir well and pour into a deep dish pie plate or 20 cm.x 20 cm. (8×8) baking pan.

For the crumble mix together 250 mL. (1 c.) rolled oats, 175 mL. (3/4 c. ) flour, 2 ml. (1/2 tsp/) baking powder, 125 mL. (1/2 c.) brown sugar, 2 mL. (1/2 tsp.) ground ginger,  and 2 mL. (1/2 tsp.) almond extract.  Add 60 mL. (1/4 c.) bran buds for fibre if you want. Using your hands, rub in 125 mL. butter until crumbly. Sprinkle crumble over fruit and press down slightly.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40 min. or until crumble is evenly golden and fruit bubbles up. Serve warm with plain yogurt or ice cream.

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