If you’re a fruit fan like me, this is the best time of year to be a British Columbian. I am a particular maniac when it comes to B.C.-grown cherries. I must admit I felt a little sticker shock a week or so ago when I saw the cashier ringing in my bag of cherries. She paused, looked me dead in the eye and asked if I really wanted to pay $13-plus for the bag of purple delight. I barely flinched and thanked her for asking but said that yes, I have to have them.
The thing with cherries is that if it rains on the orchard close to maturity, the cherries will spilt and become unmarketable to most consumers. The flavour is still there, of course, but the appeal of a split cherry on the store shelf is woefully low.
Some growers will pay $1,000 an hour for helicopters to hover over the orchards after a rain to dry the trees and the fruit preventing a crop failure. This solution can take care of an acre in about five minutes
The other problem with the cherry harvest is the usual pickers are not as available as they were pre-COVID-19. Typically, hundreds of domestic “backpackers” from Quebec would make the trek to the Okanagan this time of year but the pandemic has kept most of them at home. Likewise, migrant workers from Mexico and the Caribbean that usually work the orchards are hamstrung by border access issues despite field workers being classified as an essential service.
Locally we look to be in good shape. A fantastically warm April saw a great start to our field crops and a moist start to summer is promoting growth. When the heat comes, and it will, we will be in good shape to enjoy the bounty grown for us by our local farmers. Remember to buy B.C. to support our farming community.
On a micro-local basis, the Farm Roots field in Boundary Bay is in early summer glory. The small farm is producing some fantastic food. Several hundred Russian Red garlic bulbs are curing in the school and hundreds of pounds of new potatoes have been harvested and make it to the farm stand daily along with super sweet snap peas, turnips, scallions and other early season goodies. The 250-metre walk from field to farm stand make these offerings the freshest around.
The young farmers that I work with are now officially on summer vacation but I see them around all the time. Just this past Tuesday I was greeted by three sets of two students on scooters and bikes while watering their school farm at English Bluff. It was a warm and sunny day and they pleaded with me to spray them with the hose. Farmer Mike happily obliged with enthusiasm. The switch from shower mode to “jet” was appreciated by the kids.
The school district has prepared signage that I will be installing at the school farms to remind us all to maintain social distancing when visiting school farms and community gardens during the pandemic.
Keep your distance and enjoy our local bounty.
Mike Schneider is founder of Project Pickle and likes to write about growing, cooking and eating food. He is a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution ambassador.