I first moved to Sterling Place in January of 1997. Come spring, I was delighted to discover that the trees on my block did, in fact, have leaves. Even better, they exploded into flowers just when you needed it most.
There is a tree I am particularly fond of in front of the church at the end of my block. When we first met, this particular tree was an awkward adolescent–its gangliness heightened by what I take to be a grafting error. One branch of the tree flowers pink while the rest flowers white.
I pass this tree at least twice nearly every day. Shorter than the other trees on my block, it demands a certain attention that I suspect is somewhat irritating to those taller than me. As I passed under its branches on Thursday morning, It suddenly occurred to me that those red things dangling down looked an awful lot like cherries. (The fact that it took me 19 years to have this thought likely has something to do with the coffee shop being on the next block.) And so, like the compulsive foodie that I am, I snapped a shot and posted it online in order to crowdsource edibility.
The verdict? Yep, you can eat it!
I had thought I might wait until dark to do the deed, but was overcome by the urge on my walk home from the train. I was a bit worried that someone would come out of the church and chastise me, but people mainly seemed amused. A few brave souls even joined me in a nibble. The lower branches were easy work, but the upper branches proved more challenging. I did manage to get a few more by balancing on the tree pit guard (probably not what the block beautification committee had in mind), but eventually had to accept that the rest would be left to the birds and those standing taller than 5’4″.
After whipping up a quick salad with this week’s gorgeous red leaf from Sang Lee Farms, I set to work prepping my cherries. Oona offered to help, but her lack of opposable thumbs proved a challenge.
Turns out it doesn’t take as long as you might think to stem and pit 529 (not counting the ones that went straight into my mouth) sour cherries. Within half an hour, I was preheating the oven and assembling my crisp.
Sour Cherry Rosewater Crisp
- 529 sour cherries (about four cups)
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 3 tablespoons rosewater
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 stick butter
- Rinse the cherries, place them in a large bowl, and find something to watch on TV. Stem each cherry, transferring it back to another bowl as you do so. Grab stemmed cherries one by one, squeezing with your dominant hand and popping the pit into your other hand. (Under no circumstances should you be wearing white while performing this task.) Drop the pitted cherries back into your first bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 375. Stir 3/4 cups of sugar, the corn starch, the rosewater and the lemon juice and zest into the cherries and let sit while you make the topping.
- In another bowl, combine the remaining cup of sugar along with the flour, rolled oats, salt and baking powder. Cut all but one tablespoon of butter into small pieces and drop into flour mixture. Using your hands and pinching the butter with your fingers, combine until it forms a nice crumbly texture.
- Pour the cherries into a small baking dish. (If you happen to have a heart-shaped pie tin that you bought years ago at a stoop sale, now would be the time to deploy it.) Layer the flour mixture on top and then dot with small pieces of the remaining tablespoon of butter.
- Bake for 45 minutes or so until the fruit is bubbling around the edges (you’ll know because it will be oozing onto you oven floor unless you had the foresight to lay some foil on the lower rack) and the top is golden brown.