cherries.jpgFor the last couple of weeks, I have been unusually happy. It's not the weather or exercise or Prozac. It's cherries. Here's the deal with cherries: their season is ridiculously short, their price is ridiculously high, but the flavor is ridiculously delicious. Who can deny the pure pleasure of eating a sweet-tart, fresh, juicy cherry? It is prime cherry pickin' time. So here's what you need to know about selecting, storing, and cooking with cherries.

When is cherry season?
Most cherries are in season from late May through late July. The season is short: typically 4-5 weeks, peaking at about week 3.

Why are cherries so expensive?

For good reasons: Cherries are highly dependent upon good weather; they're also highly susceptible to insect damage and disease and often require protection from netting or cheesecloth, which is time consuming for farm workers. Finally, they must be picked carefully and are highly perishable since they do not ripen once harvested. This all adds up to a labor intensive and expensive fruit to produce, which is why the price is high. Don't wait for a big sale on cherries; it might not come. If you love them – and you know you do – then just splurge.

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Roseanna Marco 1Mountain tops, leafy glades, pastures? Not for us. We're having our picnic in Columbus Park overlooking Boston harbor. Leave your meat and fancy picnic set-ups at home; there are no grills or tables, just trees, grass and benches and other people's yachts, of course.

We like simple egg salad and tuna salad. Hard boil four eggs and refrigerate. Cut two stalks of celery into tiny pieces. Combine eggs with Hellman's mayo. Season with salt and pepper; add dry mustard if you must. Transfer to a disposable plastic container. Next, drain a can of cold tuna. Dice celery and add Hellman's, not too much. Add a dash of pepper, onions if you must. Garnish with parsley if you're a food writer.

Transfer to a separate container with a tight cover. Finally, cut grape tomatoes in thirds, then peel one cold and dry cucumber. Pack together in a third small container. If you freeze a couple of bottled waters, they'll keep everything cold.

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cherryclafoutiCherries with their crunch, deep red color, and juicy flesh always bring me so much pleasure. It's easy for me to eat bowlfuls in one sitting. My favorite part of summer has always been waiting for the stone fruits to ripen, picking up cherries and sour cherries at the Greenmarket, and visiting local farms to pick peaches and plums right from the trees. Summer just wouldn't be summer without enjoying all its fruitful bounties.

A classic French clafoutis (kla-foo-tee) is one of the best desserts that uses cherries. It is traditionally made with dark sweet cherries or black cherries, but when made with other fruit it is more commonly called a flognarde. Last season I made a plum flognarde using the dark, oblong Italian prune plums. Served just slightly warm, a clafoutis or a flognarde is an ideal dessert in summer. Garnish with a dusting of confectioners' sugar and—if you're so decadently inclined—a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche. It looks like an impressive dessert but it's very easy to make.

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summerblueBlue and yellow, shades of pink, all green – right out of the garden and into my house. This Farmer loves to snip blossoms, blooms, and branches and adorn my house with trappings from the garden.

Just a quick traipse down the garden path can yield little nosegays and bouquets aplenty to bring the outside in… and bring them in all summer long!

Neighboring colors on the contrast chart, such as blue and yellow, always make a visual splash and impact whenever they are used. Rather than a diametric contrast, such as orange and blue, slide over a step and use yellow.

I just think “happy” when I see such a jaunty combo, and rightly so! For the word “jaunty” has the French word for yellow as its root!

Just knowing that the combo of blue and yellow makes green gives this little trilogy of hydrangea, salvia, and melampodium an added oomph and pizzazz. The sharpness of the true green leaves with its parent blue and yellow colors is delightful.

While on the subject of green...

Read more ... When I was growing up I knew all the best places to pick blackberries within walking distance of my house. Wild blackberries are relatives of the rose, and like rose bushes, blackberry bushes or brambles have thorns making the prize difficult to reach. But so worth the effort. I had a basic formula that I kept to back then--one berry for me, one for the bucket, another one for me, another one for the bucket. Somehow eating them while picking them, they tasted even better than when eaten at home. Of course it also lead to purple stained tongue and fingers as evidence of my consumption.

When asked what my favorite fruit is, I usually say raspberries or peaches but in truth, I probably love blackberries most of all. Because they are in season for such a short time and are usually terribly expensive, they seem like rare jewels and I tend to forget about them. Until they're in season again. Such an intense fruit and so delicate too, they are best used immediately. If stored gently preferably in a single layer, they can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen. In addition to being delicious, blackberries are a good source of vitamins A and C and also provide vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.

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