Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Food: The Season of Soft Fruit Has Arrived-Time to Steep Those Cherries in Eau De Vie

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Food: The Season of Soft Fruit Has Arrived-Time to Steep Those Cherries in Eau De Vie

Article excerpt

Eating cherries is one thing-as Yvette observes every year, wandering around the garden, plucking handfuls then spitting out the stones from pursed lips-but picking them is quite another. The cherry trees here are very tall, with all the best fruit at the top, just waiting for the hungry starlings. Out comes the extendable ladder. In come three friends: one to climb the ladder, one to hold it steady and one to shout, "They're just above you!" I pick those on the lowest branches, which I can reach by stretching. We harvest three sorts: the crimson ones, the creamy white ones and the little wild morellos. How beautiful they look heaped in baskets, enamelled and gleaming. One needs an 18th-century poet or painter of the bucolic to do them justice. In the field below, Michel sends his wife and daughter up his cherry trees and supervises from underneath, hands on hips. I take photos of the women's heads sticking out of the high foliage, like surprised blackbirds in a pie.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It's the season for picking all the soft fruit. Supper is easy: I just stand next to the raspberry bush and gobble. The blackcurrants, redcurrants and pink currants go, stalks, leaves and all, into big stone jars to steep in eau de vie. I can't be bothered any more with making jam. The business of stripping the globules of fruit off the stalks is too fiddly and time-consuming. Redcurrant jelly is all right; you can boil the fruit up just as it comes, off the bush, and strain it. …

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