Posts Tagged ‘cherry’


George Washington and the Cherry Tree

I chose to write my President’s Day blog about our nation’s first president and the ubiquitous cherry tree myth. I studied U.S. history in college so I love a good presidential anecdote, but I also grew up with a cherry tree in my backyard, lending a certain significance to this particular story for me.

Written by Mason Weems in an 1806 biography of George Washington, the iconic story of young George chopping down his father’s cherry tree with a hatchet and admitting it later to his father (“I can’t tell a lie, pa”), served as a moral lesson for generations of American children on the virtue of honesty. Included in the famous McGuffey Reader (a widely used textbook in American schools throughout the 19th century), Americans celebrated Washington’s birthday on February 22nd by eating impressive amounts of cherries (dried or candied) and presenting their children with toy hatchets. Weems’ story lost its credibility by the early 20th century when historians realized there was nothing more than anecdotal evidence to support the story. Although most agree that the events in this story likely never happened, there is no way to know for sure.


Bing Cherries

As a child, Washington was not my favorite president. I loved the cherry tree in my backyard—it was a favorite refuge of mine where I spent many afternoons making up songs (mostly about my dog), and I did not think kindly of cherry tree killers, presidential or otherwise.

So I was pleased to learn that later in his life, Washington planted cherry trees at his Mount Vernon, Virginia estate along with apple, pear, peach, and apricot trees. Cherries had originally been introduced to America from Britain in the early 17th century, and the French and Spanish followed suit, importing different cultivars (like the Yellow Spanish and Early Richmond cultivars), to different regions of the colonies. By the mid 1800s, the cultivation of cherries had spread to Oregon, and the now popular Bing cherry is named after an orchard worker who discovered the cultivar on an Oregon farm in 1875.

To my surprise, when I was reading about Washington and cherries, I stumbled upon another less known presidential cherry-related conundrum: the mysterious death of Zachary Taylor in July of 1850! As the story goes, after taking a walk on the 4th of July, Taylor returned home, drank a glass of milk, and ate a huge bowl of cherries (no one knows why—it was a whole five months too late to be celebrating Washington’s birthday after all). Taylor became sick later that day and died five days later—the exact cause of death still unknown…but what a way to go!

Although I don’t know which cultivar my family’s sour cherry tree was (it produced very small fruit which was mostly eaten by birds), Bing cherry trees are grown in Seattle (City Fruit harvested 30 pounds last year!). However, Bing cherries are generally more suitable to the climate of eastern Washington–in Seattle, try growing the sweet cherry variety called Lapin, which tends to do better in western Washington than other varieties. For more resources on growing fruit trees and cherry trees in particular, check out the Growing Fruit and Recommended Reading pages under the Resources section of the City Fruit website!

Somewhere along the way as I wrote this blog about the cherry-related mysteries of American presidential history, I came across the 1931 song by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson sung by Rudy Vallee titled, “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, the lyrics of which seemed fitting:

Life is just a bowl of cherries,

Don’t take it serious,  

It’s too mysterious…

Happy President’s Day!


We’d love to get you engaged in the City Fruit family! Check out upcoming events, become an ambassador to manage the fruit trees in your neighborhood and get your community involved, sign up to volunteer, or become a member to support City Fruit monthly or annually.


Getting Started with Mason Bees

mason-bee-house-1In just two hours of your time each year, you can significantly increase the amount of fruit your trees produce. And you’ll have fun doing it. Just add gentle-natured mason bees for amazing pollination. This native bee out-pollinates her honey bee cousin by about 100:1, due to her messy pollen gathering techniques. She is a friendly garden companion that doesn’t mind people observing her activities. While there no honey produced, you’ll get healthy spring fruit and nut yields.

Mason bees are alive in spring when your fruit trees are in bloom. After the females have gathered pollen and laid their eggs for 4-6 weeks, they expire early June. While they’re alive, they use holes in your yard to nest and lay cocoons. These are your bees for next season!

In fall you “harvest” the cocoons from the holes where they nested earlier. The bee larva have grown into bees encased in cocoons and will safely overwinter in your refrigerator. This allows you to be in control of when you want to pollinate your yard. Do you need your cherry tree pollinated? Pull some bees out of hibernation in late March. Pollinate your apple tree? You’re removing them in April. It’s easy!

For the holidays, Crown Bees is offering a ten percent discount on Bee Starter Kits to City Fruit members! Email for the discount code.

This guest post is made possible by Crown Bees, a local business dedicated to keeping food on the table and in our stores with mason bee pollination. Bees pollinate 1/3 of our food supply, which relies primarily on the troubled honey bee. The company promotes raising mason bees and educating backyard gardeners and farmers nationwide about this gentle-natured, efficient pollinator. It’s an easy way we can all help protect our food supply, one garden at a time.



The cherries are coming!

photo (1)In my opening New to Fruit Trees blog, I said I was disappointed not to find a single fruit tree in my yard after moving to Seattle from Washington, DC. Not so fast. Let’s call this my second #fruitfail.  Not one, or two, but five — I have five cherry trees in my yard.  Seattle is truly an urban orchard. (To be fair, at the time, no cherries were growing!)

For help identifying our trees, I was able to call on one of City Fruit’s many experts. Laila Suidan, a trained arborist, taught me about each type of tree (and plant) in our yard and provided instruction on care and maintenance. Among other things, she taught me that many fruit trees, including cherry trees, have identifying lenticels on their bark.

City Fruit will soon launch a set of residential services, including connection to experts that can help identify and assess your fruit trees and assist in tree care and management. If you’re interested, please email and we’ll send you more information. 

I’m looking forward to our first harvest of cherries this week! If you aren’t lucky enough to have cherry trees in your backyard, make sure to sign up for Collins Orchards CSA. Deliveries started June 25th, but you can sign-up at anytime.  The first few weeks of the CSA will include Early Robin Rainier cherries.


City Fruit members receive a 10% discount on the CSA! Join City Fruit Today — members may request the discount code by email.


Catherine Morrison is the executive director of City Fruit.  Follow her blog series and send your New to Fruit Tree questions to




Harvest Season has Begun!

As someone who is very interested in supporting local food and food justice movements, yesterday was a very exciting day for two reasons. First, and most importantly, yesterday it was reported that farmworkers had reached a $500,000 dollar settlement with Sakuma Brothers berry farm located in Burlington. The agreement also included reforms to keeping track of workers’ labor as well as longer and more consistent breaks throughout the day. Second, yesterday was also my first City Fruit harvest of the year! I was able to pick a few pounds of delicious cherries from the yard of one of our donors.

Cherry season has come earlier than ever before!

Cherry season has come earlier than ever before!

This was especially thrilling for me as it was almost three weeks earlier than we’d ever harvested in past years. Thanks to the warm spring along with some timely rain, we expect most of our fruit varieties to be ready much earlier than normal. Remember, if you have not yet taken our survey on whether or not you’d like your tree harvested, please do so. Ready or not, here harvest season comes!



Seattle Orchards: Piper’s Orchard

[This exerpt is from Seattle’s Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It’s a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

The historic orchard at Piper’s Canyon, photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

Piper’s Orchard at Carkeek Park is one of the oldest orchards with an abundance of fruit trees in Seattle. As the “Piper Oral History Meeting” of February 20, 1984 recounts, the first owner of this land was the Piper family, which included Bavarian-born Andrew W. Piper, his wife Wilhelmina and their children. The family originally settled in what is present-day downtown Seattle, where Piper ran a konditorei, or a confectioner’s shop that sold baked goods and candy. However, his shop was burned down in Seattle’s Great Fire in 1889, and soon after, the family moved up north to an 80-acre plot of land by Piper’s Canyon, located in what is now Carkeek Park. The family planted an orchard on the land with many pioneer varieties, such as the German Bietigheimer, and a large vegetable garden. The “Piper Oral History Meeting” notes state that while Minna and her son Paul were the main caretakers of the garden, her husband often used the fruit harvested from the orchards to make pies. Minna and Paul took the fruits and vegetables from the orchard and their vegetable garden into town to sell. However, Piper died in 1904, and the City forced his family off the property a little while later to create Carkeek Park.

Carkeek Park was one of the first parks established in Seattle. Brandt Morgan, author of Enjoying Seattle Parks, a description and history of the parks that had been established by the time of publication in 1979, relates that Morgan J. Carkeek and his wife, Emily, settled in Seattle in 1875. Carkeek was a stonemason from England and one of Seattle’s best early artisan contractors. The park originally dedicated in Carkeek’s name was located on Pontiac Bay on Lake Washington 1918; however in 1926, the land was turned over to the federal government in order to operate a Naval Air Station. Consequently, Morgan states that Carkeek donated $25,000 in 1928 for a new park to be located at Piper’s Canyon and the City put up $100,000, to create the park. Carkeek Park opened for operation one year after this plan was finalized.

Since its creation, Carkeek Park has been utilized for a variety of different purposes. Some of the more notable uses were a sawmill company that was operated on the parkland in the 1920s, which usurped all of the timber in the original forested land, and the Whiz Company, whose fish traps were used to collect salmon until 1932. The park was then used to create work for those who were hard-hit by the Depression to make camp buildings and forest trails. Later, the park was used for a loop road, shelter, and picnic area in 1953, and a model airplane field in 1959. The park then slowly evolved into a place for community gathering, in part because of the discovery of the orchard after many decades of abandonment in the 1980s.

Map of Carkeek Park. Piper’s Orchard resides within the park.

In 1981, Daphne Lewis, a landscape architect, stumbled upon Piper’s Orchard, covered by layers of blackberry bushes. Lewis discovered the orchard in the process of surveying Carkeek Park in order to create a master plan for park restoration. Bob Baines, a SPD employee who was involved in the original restoration project, recalls that the restoration team consisted of volunteers, descendants of the Piper family and members of the newly formed Piper’s Orchard chapter of the Western Cascade Tree Fruit Association. The Piper’s Orchard chapter adopted and began to take care of the orchard. As part of this restoration effort, more pioneer varieties of apples were planted, which included Wagener, Red Astrachan, King, and Wolf River. The first wave of orchard restoration brought together the knowledge, expertise and resources of different members of the community.

Interest in taking care of this orchard has wavered over the years. However, a new era of the Piper’s Orchard restoration project began about five years ago, asserts Brian Gay, a naturalist for SPD at Carkeek Park. At this time, SPD and orchard volunteers put together a sustainability plan complete with recommendations for future care of the orchard. Afterwards, there was renewed interest in the educational opportunities that the orchard offered.

Today the orchard includes 82 fruit trees, 30 of which were originally planted by the Piper family. There is an abundance of apple, cherry, chestnut, filbert, pear, walnut and hawthorn trees all planted on the park hillside. Don Ricks, president of Friends of Piper’s Orchard, mentions that many of the fruit trees suffer from apple scab, a fungal disease, but they are putting up pheromone destructors and nylon socks in an attempt to counteract the incidence of pests.

While SPD owns the land, the non-profit organization Friends of Piper’s Orchard tends and maintains the orchard.


Seattle Orchards: Martha Washington Park

[This exerpt is the first in a series about Seattle orchards from Seattle’s Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It’s a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

The origins of the surviving historic orchards are connected to the rich narratives of the early settlement and development of Seattle communities since the late 1800s. Many of these historic orchards contain a diversity of tall heirloom varieties, instead of the semi-dwarf or dwarf, specialized and standardized varieties. Some of the orchards that were planted recently have heirloom varieties, but they are mostly semi-dwarf or dwarf species. The eleven orchards are only a few of the vast network of fruit trees that spreads across Seattle.

Apple and cherry trees at Martha Washington Park; photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

Like many of the other orchards in Seattle, the orchard at Martha Washington Park has a rich history. The pioneer E.A. Clark, Seattle’s third schoolteacher was the first settler to own the land, but he soon sold it to settler David Graham in 1855, who then sold it to his brother Walter Graham ten years later. Graham was a horticulturist and planted the orchard found here.

The location of Graham’s land was close to the cable and trolley cars that traveled to the city center, which enabled easy transport of their harvested produce into town to sell. Graham ended up selling his land to Asa Mercer, who is known for sending two groups of maidens north to Seattle to help meet the demand for single settlers had for wives. Graham met Mercer because he married one of Mercer’s young women. However, Mercer ended up selling the piece of property to John Wilson soon after as payment for a loan because he went bankrupt after sending his second shipment of brides.

In 1889, Wilson sold the piece of land to Everett Smith, an attorney who was the clerk for Judge Thomas Burke. Smith later sold the property to the Seattle School District in 1920, which turned the property into the Martha Washington School for Girls in order to provide resident supervision for delinquent girls. In 1957, the state of Washington took over care of the site, and in 1972 the City of Seattle acquired the land.

Map of Martha Washington Park locationToday there are nine cherry and apple trees left on the property, cared for by SPD and community members. Jim Kramer, one of the community orchard stewardssays that many of the trees do not have harvestable fruit because they have apple maggot flies, which they are trying to counteract by putting nylon socks on the individual pieces of fruit.Kramer states that since these trees are very old, the fruit is 30 feet up in the air and not very accessible. One of the main tasks to accomplish in the next three or four years is to do major pruning in order to encourage fruit production lower on the tree. Kramer hopes that they will also be able to plant more fruit trees at the site in the future.


Cherry Apricot Almond Tart

Last Saturday at the University District Farmer’s Market I stopped by the Rock Island Red and Orchardist Pippitone stalls, where they were selling fabulous tom-cots and apricots. I was delighted to see that the first Washington cherries were in, too. So, here is a cherry-apricot recipe sure to be eaten up as fast as you put it out!

Cherry Apricot Almond Tart

Buttery, crumbly tart crust
¼ cup toasted almonds
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-⅓ cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg + 1 yolk, beaten
3 tablespoons cold water

Pulse the almonds and sugar together in a food processor until finely ground. Add flours, butter and salt and process until consistency of wet sand. Add egg and as much water as needed, little by little, until dough comes together into a ball. Divide into two balls, flatten into 4-inch discs, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. Makes 2 crusts
Preparing the Tart
1 disc of Buttery, Crumbly Tart Crust, chilled
¼ cup blanched almonds
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 large egg
½ cup creme fraiche
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 pound cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 pound apricots, halved and pitted

1. Preheat oven to 400° F and then roll out the pastry dough on a silicone mat or floured surface to a 13-inch circle.

2. Spray a 10- or 11-inch tart pan with cooking spray and carefully lay the dough on top. Tuck it in to fit to the pan and trim the top, leaving a ¼ inch above the pan. Crimp edges along the ridges of the pan.

3. Spray a sheet of parchment paper with cooking spray and lay, spray side down, on the pastry shell. Fill with dried beans or pie weights and bake for 10 minutes. Remove beans or weights and paper, and let crust cool on a rack.

4. Pulse together almonds and ¼ cup sugar in a food processor until finely ground.

5. Add egg, creme fraiche and almond extract, and and run the processor until the mixture is smooth. Scoop mixture onto tart shell and spread evenly.

6. Arrange the halved cherries and apricots on top of the tart, cut side up. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and bake 30-40 minutes, until filling is set.

7. Let cool and serve.
Serves 12


July Report

We had an unusually wet winter, and some anthracnose can be seen in the apple trees. Clip out the dying twigs and small branches that are bad on your fruit trees as you examine them.

The next couple months are an ideal time to trim back your fruit trees in an area with moderate temperatures such as we have in Seattle. You can lower the height of overgrown trees, cut out the water-sprouts (sometimes called “suckers”) and open up the trees where the branches seem crowded to allow developing fruit to receive more nurturing sun.

Summer pruning is a good time for “containing” fruit trees that are taller than you can conveniently reach. After you’ve harvested your cherries, think about pruning the cherry trees, because they are more susceptible to disease when pruned in the wetter months than when pruned now. The final argument for summer pruning here in the Pacific Northwest? It’s a lot more fun to be out on a pleasant dry July or August morning than a wet and windy February one!


Mid-June Report

First, thanks to Jill E., Lily S., and Linda K. who work in connection with City Fruit and who helped Sue Hartmann and her half dozen volunteers to protect the Seattle Tilth garden area apple trees last week. The event was a success and marked a coordinated City Fruit and Seattle Tilth cooperation, something which we hope will happen again.

Now, as to the fruit this year: It seems to be a light year for fruit, so if you have any, be grateful. If anyone out there has seen an Italian prune plum tree with much fruit on it, please email me as I would like to know.

Apricots? Forget it. We don’t grow them in Western Washington and this year is no exception.

Pears? No need to worry about pests just yet, but check the July report in two weeks.

Cherries? It is time to spray for cherry fruit fly. Consult a local nursery for help.

Plums, Peaches, Blueberries? Okay so far. Wait for the mid-July report for more info.

Apples? The codling moth is flying and mating now, but there are no eggs hatching into larvae just yet. City Fruit member Claire D. is helping me monitor these and she caught many moths in her Greenwood trap just recently… just as I have seen these in the Wallingford area a couple weeks ago. The codling moth is what puts the proverbial worm in the apple.

The other pest for apples, the apple maggot fly, is less perceptible and more destructive. Since it doesn’t start flying until July this year, you still have plenty of time to protect against it with your apple maggot barriers (aka footies). Kaolin clay and neem oil also work.
Final note: You can learn how to apply footies at the Piper’s Orchard this Saturday, June 18th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Drop in for an hour or a half hour…or just stroll by and enjoy the park.

Report by Don Ricks


Mid-May Report

       Finally a few sunny days ! !
       I have already seen a few developing pears and a few sour cherries getting started. Since the sour cherry trees are self-pollinating, they at least could survive our incredibly cool wet “no fly zones” created for our bees this Spring.
       This will undoubtedly be another bad year for some types of plums, but the apple trees that are out in bloom now should be fine in terms of being sufficiently pollinated.   

       Some people will have taken steps to protect against apple scab already, but this is the time of the year when it is time to now start paying attention to the bugs.    The first bug to arrive on the scene for the apple is the codling moth….and if you live in South Seattle or by the Phinney area, there is a chance the codling moth will arrive about May 27th in very small numbers.
       Talk to a local nursery about a spinosad product or neem oil or kaolin clay or some such for organic solutions.
       Those applying foot sox to protect against the codling moth should probably think about putting the footies on the apples as soon as one can discern the apples this year. Here is a link that may help:

       No other fruit crops need pest protection at this time, but summer approaches……stay tuned for the June report the first week of June.


May Report

       If April showers bring May flowers, then what do Mayflowers bring?
       Nope. Not pilgrims. Guess again.
       The answer this year is a very late pest program, with footies to be applied in late May (more details later).

        Our April was phenomenally cold and wet, and  in fact, the past 8 months have been unusually wet.      As a result of these past wet  months we had to so patiently endure, we will now see much more moss both on our trees and on our lawns.   We will see more peach leaf curl on the peach trees, more anthracnose on our apple trees, and more pear and apple scab on our fruit.
Geesh !    To counter this onslaught of  problems related to our rain, fruit enthusiasts are encouraged to talk to a local nursery about organic solutions, such as lime/sulfur for apple scab right now, and Spinosad products for pest control later this season.
        What the organization “City Fruit” will be doing this year is to protect some of our fruit with a harmless barrier that doesn’t even require spraying. We use foot sox sold by the Seattle Tree Fruit society for apples and pears.       

       Read more about this

     In addition,  I, Don Ricks, am  personally  offering to GIVE away these items to anyone who emails me and sends me a mailing address:
              — 12 foot sox, and/or
              — 12 paper sacks (with stencils where you can “name” your apple) and
               — 6 Fuji bags (like used in Japan)

              Jill’s last blog about “container” planting is right on the mark. I am convinced this is the future for Seattle gardeners….and I additionally am offering to give away insect netting to those people who have dwarfed cherry trees, peach trees, or blueberries where the net can cover the entire tree. (Apples and pears should be footied individually…..the nets are for smaller fruit trees and berries).

             I will arrange to let you have the mosquito nets at one of our upcoming work parties to be announced later…but the foot sox I will offer to mail to you at no charge…….there is no catch other than this:   I will email you in the Fall to ask about your results.
          Again,  there are no other conditions to receive these items to try them out.   This is something I believe in and we can all learn at City Fruit by experimenting, growing, learning and working together to find solutions.



Pruning Time

Don Ricks will be posting about fruit care topics here from time to time–why not start with the first chore of the year?  Here’s what he says about pruning:

Did the excessive rains cause you to get “cabin fever”  this winter?   Rejoice!    Pruning time has come and you can go out now and reclaim the landscape.

In February and March we can prune apple, pears, and plums.   Information and opportunities as to where to prune will be posted.  You already have reference to the class schedule link in Gail’s earlier blog.   We will repost this and also offer information on specific work opportunities if you wish to volunteer your time and learn something in the process.

Note from Don:   I recently talked with a woman who had “lost confidance”  in her husband’s pruning abilities.   Last year her trees produced poorly.   When I told her that year 2010 was a very bad year for Italian prune plums and cherry trees  and that this had nothing to do with how the trees were pruned then she seemed to have regained some of her confidance in her aspiring hero.

Folks, pruning has less to do with the particular crop you get that year and more to do with the quality and size of fruit for the years in the future.  More to come.


Amazing judges for upcoming pie contest

Mark your calendars: the annual Festival of Fruit at Piper’s Orchard is just around the corner. The event takes place Sept. 18 from 10 to 2 and features cider making, talks about the history of the orchard, and fruit identification (bring an apple from your tree to find out the variety!). City Fruit, the Seattle Tree Fruit Society and Friend’s of Piper’s Orchard have put together the event.

We’ll also be hosting an apple pie contest–anyone can enter so feel free to bring a pie–and we have some stellar judges lined up. The judges include (in no particular order):

Jon Rowley: Jon is perhaps best known as the man behind the marketing of Copper River salmon. He organizes the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, which he calls “an annual dating program for West Coast wines and oysters.”

Jon also works with farmers, restaurants and retailers to improve the quality and distribution of fruits and vegetables. He’s a common sight at weekend farmer’s markets, using his refractometer to measure the sugar in fruits.

He’s a pie maker himself, is a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine and is listed in the “Who’s Who of Cooking in America.”

Lorna Yee: Lorna is a fixture of the local food scene. She’s a contributing editor and the “Key Ingredient” columnist for Seattle Magazine.

Lorna recently published her first cookbook, The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking together, and started her popular blog, The Cookbook Chronicles, to showcase recipe testing for the book.

For a taste of Lorna’s style, check out her sour cherry coffee cake with toasted hazelnut and oatmeal streusel recipe. Yum!!

Tracey Bernal: Tracey has worked as a pastry chef and cook at Campagne, Café Septieme, the Palace Kitchen and the Dahlia Bakery. She is currently a gardener in ornamental landscaping, with a particular interest in edible landscaping. She’s got five types of apples in her yard.

Tracey has been a pie judge at past contests at the Festival of Fruit and is active in the Seattle Tree Fruit Society.

Dr. Bob Norton: Bob is the region’s foremost fruit tree expert. Around 1964, Bob started the Washington State University tree fruit research center in Mt. Vernon with the purpose of bringing about a revival of growing tree fruit in western Washington.

Bob has been a judge at previous pie contests at the Festival of Fruit and brings a unique talent to the judging. That’s because he’s one of the few people who can identify some of the many varieties of apples in our region.

In addition to being a judge, Bob will give a talk at 10 a.m. about hard cider making and will help identify fruit that festival attendees bring in from their own trees.

Tell your friend’s and mark your calendars! It should be a fun day.


Got cherries? Got duck?

Now is a great time for this recipe: lots of cherries from Eastern Washington or your very own urban orchard here in Seattle, duck from Thundering Hooves or any other local farmer. This cherry sauce recipe can also be used as a marinade for barbecuing chicken, vegetables (think eggplant, zucchinis), lamb, etc.

Duck with Sweet Cherry Sauce
Active Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 1/2 hr

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 small)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Scant 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper (1/2 medium)
1 plum tomato, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/4 lb dark sweet cherries such as Bing, quartered and pitted (3 cups)
2 (3/4-lb) boneless Moulard duck breasts with skin*
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or chives
Heat oil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, garlic, and shallot, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 7 minutes.
Add tomato paste, black pepper, cumin, hot pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in wine, vinegar (to taste), and sugar and simmer 1 minute. Stir in mustard, 1 1/2 cups cherries, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer 1 minute.
Purée mixture in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute. Force cherry sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and transfer 1/4 cup sauce to a small bowl for glazing duck.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
Score duck skin in a crosshatch pattern with a small sharp knife and season duck all over with salt and pepper.
Heat water in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over low heat until hot, then add duck, skin side down. Cook duck, uncovered, over low heat, without turning, until most of fat is rendered and skin is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Transfer duck to a plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Brush duck all over with cherry sauce from bowl and return to skillet, skin side up.
Roast duck in oven until thermometer registers 135°F (see cooks’ note, below), about 8 minutes for medium-rare.
Transfer duck to a cutting board and set skillet aside. Let duck stand, loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes.
Immediately after covering duck, carefully pour off any fat from skillet, leaving any brown bits, and add remaining cherry sauce, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups cherries. (Cherries will lose flavor if cooked; heat from skillet will warm sauce.)
Sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve with cherry sauce.


What kind of crop can we expect?

I’m getting excited about the upcoming harvest. This time of year is always bubbling with anticipation as we gear up for another harvest — recruiting volunteers, identifying tree owners who have excess fruit, etc. And as part of that I always wonder what kind of crop we’ll get this year. Last year, we had a record amount of plums. What will it be this year?

Things don’t look so good  in Michigan — at least not beyond a good blueberry production. Looks like the apple crop will be down 53% due mainly to early spring warm weather followed by cold. They’re expecting a lower-than-normal cherry crop as well. And even though New Hampshire had similar conditions (including a frost May 10), they anticipate a good apple harvest.

Since we had similar conditions here in Washington, I was wondering if we’re in for a similar trend. Like everything, the answer isn’t quite cut & dry.

From the same article about Michigan, there’s a reference that Washington apple crop should actually grow this year — 140 million bushels estimated, up from 132 last year. But I just read that several WA counties were designated “natural disaster areas” by the USDA because of how the weather impacted the apple & cherry crops. This allows farmers access to emergency loans to help them offset the cost of losses due to the weather. Although, if you read this from, it sounds like there’s a strong crop of cherry’s ready to go.

Getting a read on what the Seattle harvest will be like is even more difficult so it may just be a case of wait-and-see. Our pear trees are producing less than they did in 2009 — but they had a huge crop last year, so that’s kind of expected. I guess we won’t fully know until we start harvesting. We should start on the cherries, red plums, and transparent apples in July — so we’ll have a much better sense then.

And just to get you in the mood for the upcoming harvest season, which kicks off pretty much with cherries, here’s a video that tells you the proper way to harvest cherries:


Seattle Orchards: Piper’s Orchard

I’m in the process of researching the orchard history of Seattle. I’m curious to learn more about the ones that still exist, those historic orchards that have long since gone, and new ones sprouting up. Really to understand how all these fruit trees got here in the first place — and now sit in our yards and parks.  I plan on blogging about what I find.

The first is Piper Orchard, which is in Carkeek Park. Bob Baines, president of the Friends of Piper Orchard, invited a couple of us from City Fruit to participate in a planning meeting. During that I learned a bit about the history of Piper Orchard. There’s a wealth of information here — and the source of much of what’s below.

Starting with recent history, last year they put on a Festival of Fruit. Here’s a clip if you couldn’t attend:

The Piper family planted it over a century ago after he moved to Seattle in 1874. Andrew W. Piper ran the Puget Sound Candy Factory or a bakery, depending on the source, until it burned down in the Seattle fire. And according to this website, he was also the WA State Chess Champion from 1875-1890. He also ran for mayor and served on the city council — so he was a bit of a busy guy.

Wilhelmina “Minna” Piper is the one thought to have actually planted and cared for the orchard as her husband was away on business a lot. She was always thought of as the gardener. One source that mentions one of the sons, Paul Piper, used to take some of the fruit to sell it at the market. Andrew W. Piper reportedly also used the apples in his pastries — that is, if he was a baker.   

The park was bought as part of Carkeek part in 1927.

More recent history starts in 1981 when landscape architect Daphne Lewis discovered the antique fruit trees while making a master-plan survey for restoration of the park. She and a group of volunteers worked for two years to clear away the overgrowth (blackberries, mostly) so that the trees were accessible. They found about 30 apple trees, 2 pears, two cherry, along with a variety of non-fruit trees such as maples and hawthornes.

Currently, the Friends of Piper Orchard partners with the Seattle Parks Department to help look after the trees & fruit within the park. The Friends of Piper’s Orchard also organize monthly work parties that involve everything from pruning, clearing away blackberries, etc.

City Fruit is working with Bob Baines to figure out how we can partner together to help educate tree owners, improve the health of this great resource, and possibly increase the fruit yield that can then benefit those in need in the community.




Free Fruit Trees to Seattle Residents under New Program

Jana Dilley, Seattle ReLeaf

Seattle residents can apply for free apple and cherry trees under a new pilot program of the City of Seattle’s 2009 Tree Fund. The fruit trees can be planted in residential yards (sorry, not along streets).

The Tree Fund, a component of the Neighborhood Matching Fund, provides trees to neighborhood groups to enhance the City’s urban forest. The City provides the trees, and
neighbors share the work of planting and caring for the trees. Tree Fund projects are a great way to build a stronger sense of community. The fruit tree component is new in 2009.

For an application form and more information about the program, see Seattle ReLeaf’s Web site .