Sour cherry lovers flock to orchards during harvest

AP

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SHELBURNE, Vt. (AP) — When the sour cherries ripen at a handful of orchards in Vermont, devotees of the delicate, bright red fruit need to be at the right place at the right time to pick the season's batches.

The tart fruit used in pies, cobblers and even liquor is highly perishable and has a very short season.

Nancy Reynolds, of Burlington, says she plans her whole summer around picking the Montmorency cherries at Shelburne Orchards in July.

"We clear the whole weekend," she said. "We make no other plans for the week that they're ready."

Reynolds got an emailed newsletter from the orchard saying the cherries were ripe and she showed up promptly last Sunday morning.

"Until you've had a real cherry pie, you have not eaten a pie. It will redefine your whole pie experience. To die for," she said.

Sour cherries are more delicate than the firmer sweet ones. Fresh ones aren't found in grocery stores because they go bad so quickly, so cherry lovers head to farm stands and orchards.

"There are very specific people who know about them," said Nick Cowles, owner of Shelburne Orchards. "Like a lot people will tell me, oh, they came from Michigan or somebody in their family had a sour cherry tree."

Judy Devino, of South Burlington, had a tart cherry tree in her yard as a child.

"My mother just loved to pick them," said Devino, who picked cherries at the orchard with her husband and sister to make cherry cobbler and cherry pie.

Last year, Cara Sachs, of Winooski, drove nearly two hours in the pouring rain to a friend's house in West Rutland just to pick sour cherries from a single tree on a hill.

"If there's a cherry crop, I've done this every year pretty much since I was born," said Sachs.

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