Archive for May, 2013

Call them what you will. Pie cherries, tart cherries, sour. We call them good eating, but you never find them fresh in supermarkets around Kansas City.

Sweet cherries, yes. Tart cherries, hardly ever even at the farmers market.

I never understood why until hearing this story on NPR’s All Things Considered the other day. Apparently, tart cherries don’t travel well. They’re very perishable. And since Michigan is about the closest source of commercially grown tart cherries, we here in the Kansas City area are stuck with frozen cherry filling, juice and dried cherries.

That is,unless you happen to have access to a cherry tree. We have one right outside our back door. It was one of the first things we planted when we moved into our current home almost 15 years ago and started setting up our (fruit) and vegetable paradise.

I can’t recall when we got our first harvest off of it. A couple of years later, I suppose. Steadily the tree and its output grew. Nowadays, I’m amazed at how many cherries one tree can produce. In a few weeks, I’ll be spending many hours on a step ladder picking buckets of them.

Then Roxie and I will share duty pitting them by hand. She does most of it, but I have been known to pitch in, such as one marathon pitting session a few years ago when we were about to go on a trip and the cherries had to be dealt with or else.

Tedious, yes, but the work is well worth it. In addition to baking cherry pies, Rox will make jam and dry them in our dehydrator for sprinkling on cereal and ice cream.

Three years ago we tried our hand at making cherry wine. We used too much sugar and it ended up being a sweet desert wine that was just Ok. Since then, however, we’ve gotten better at it. Last year’s vintage wine was dry and fit for serving with the main course.

Buoyed by our success in making cherry wine, we experimented with other fruits. So now there’s apple and peach wine, too, in our cellar.

If you listen to the NPR story, you’ll be depressed to learn that the tart cherry industry is now marketing their product as a health food. Eat cherries and live better, longer, etc.

Phooey. Food isn’t medicine. Some of It may have medicinal properties, or simply be good for you, but food is meant to be enjoyed.

Anyone who says differently is itching for a fight.

Posted by: Mike

We’ll have cherry pie;Cherry pies,


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Wellsir, I’ll say this: It has been an exciting spring. While last year we longed for a little rain, an occasional cloud to liven things up from the unrelenting sun and heat, this spring has been…yeah.

As I write this, on May 4, 2013, we still have not put out the tomato, broccoli, lettuce and cauliflower–not to mention the pepper–plants we’ve been carefully tending in the basement for weeks. The seeds and sets we put out earlier–onions, garlic, peas and potatoes–are up, or just barely. The bedding plants have been outside a little in the cold frame, but are now back down in the basement waiting for the current cold snap to be over.

Help us!

Help us!


Each week I think I’ll put them out in the garden. But then I check my weather app and here comes another week with a dip into the 30s for nighttime lows. A week ago, we had a heavy frost on the car windshield (although the peas and onions handled it fine). Thursday, we drove home from a school event in driving snow.

And so here it is, May 4. Normally by this time, we have the garden three-quarters planted. Bedding plants are out, beans are planted. About the only things waiting by this time are the hard-core warm weather lovers: The squash, the cucumbers, the melons and of course the sweet potatoes and the basil. And corn, if we have a spot to plant it.

This is without a doubt the latest spring in my memory for Kansas City. And we’ve lived here since 1985.

But oh well. You have to believe it will all work out. Over the years, we’ve found it just doesn’t pay to get too excited about the weather. Because eventually, things work out.


For instance

Case in point: Last year’s drought was brutal for some of our perennials. Rhubarb that had been coming up for years failed. Asparagus looked weak and piddly. And worst of all, a currant bush we’d planted when we bought the house just up and died (although I think that was some kind of disease or fungus, rather than the dry weather).

Our yard. Not a monoculture

Our yard. Not a monoculture

We planted new rhubarb and a currant in different locations. But by the end of the growing season, they looked completely dead.

But being lazy as we are, we never dug up those plants. And this year our laziness was rewarded. The rains returned and so did the currant and rhubarb. The roots were not dead after all.

Which just goes to prove–your garden wants to live. You just have to be patient.


The grass

Normally we’re not that into the things in our yard we can’t eat. But it has been great to see what the rain (and snow) has done to make our yard green as Ireland. We really missed that after all the brown of the drought summer.

We joked all through our garden show talks about how our presentation on dry weather gardening probably caused the return of precipitation to Kansas City. But hey, if it works…


Worth checking out

I’ve been hearing about the upcoming garden tour put on by Cultivate Kansas City. The tour will feature 60 gardens or urban farming operations throughout the area. From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be an exciting and inspiring tour. So mark your calendars for June 22 and 23. For more info, go to http://www.cultivatekc.org/urbangrowntour/about-tour.html

The new currant

The new currant

Posted by: Roxie

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