It's Cherry Time!
Jun. 6, 2009 7:10 am
Updated: Jun. 14, 2009 2:52 pm
Every year on the second weekend in June my daughters and I take a drive to a small community here in Southern California called Leona Valley. Hidden in the hills, with only a couple of winding, not-so-well-maintained roads leading in, a first-timer will be pleasantly surprised when they finally reach this destination. You see, Leona Valley is home to dozens of fruit orchards, with the main emphasis being CHERRIES!
It seems the soil and weather conditions in this little valley are perfect for cultivating some of the tastiest cherries you've ever eaten. The best part? You get to pick the cherries yourself! Most of the orchards grow Bing cherries, but a few have some of the more "gourmet" varieties, including my favorites - Rainier cherries. One orchard grows sour pie cherries.
Ever since my almost-13-year-old daughter was about three years old, we have gone cherry picking in Leona Valley every year. We have the best time, sometimes spending as much as two or three hours in an orchard seeking out the very best, biggest, plumpest, darkest red cherries we can find. One time we even found a hummingbird nest in one of the low branches with two TEENY baby hummingbirds in it! We told the orchard foreman about it right away and he roped off that particular tree so the general public wouldn't have access to it and scare the parent birds away.
One really neat part is that the orchard owners encourage sampling, as long as you try not to eat more cherries than you actually put in your bucket to purchase. They sell refreshments, local honey, and some of them even have frozen, chocolate dipped cherry skewers---YUM! One orchard goes all-out and has a petting zoo and a pony ride for opening weekend. My daughters are getting a little bit big for pony rides, but they still enjoy the petting zoo.
Sometimes the weather is hot and we go cherry picking in shorts and short sleeved shirts...and sometimes the weather is freezing cold and we go cherry picking in sweats, jackets, hats, and gloves. No matter what the conditions, though, we have a great time.
We've gotten friends and family members in on the event several times, too. It's so much fun to watch the youngest kids eat a cherry straight off the tree (all of the orchards are pesticide free, so it's safe to eat the fruit right off the trees). It's an educational experience for the little ones, as they learn where the food they love so much comes from.
After we purchase our cherries, we head for the cars, tired from walking up and down the hills at the orchards, red stains on our fingers and on the little ones' faces, and happy smiles on everyone's faces because we've just enjoyed a wonderful day together...and we have the cherries to prove it.
This being the first weekend in June, we are gearing up for cherry picking next weekend. My two daughters are anxiously watching the weather forecasts (even though they change from day to day!) to see what kind of clothing we'll need to wear, and they're trying to decide which ONE friend to invite along with us (my car only holds 4 people). I'm looking forward to spending a happy afternoon in the peaceful quiet of a cherry orchard with my daughters, enjoying each other's company...and of course, sampling the cherries.
Thanks for stopping by! God bless...and have a great day!