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Family-Grown Antique Cherries

Fine Cooking Issue 65
Photos: Amy Albert
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Ken Weston picks cherries by hand, rather than with a mechanical tree-shaker. This lessens the chances of damaging the trees and the fruit. The lift, which Ken designed himself, is safer and more comfortable than a ladder.

While most cherry growing in the United States is on a large, commercial scale, Ken Weston has established a niche for himself, farming both sweet and sour cherries by hand for over sixty years, and selling them at farmers’ markets and the family farmstand. Montmorency, shiny as nail polish and fire-engine red, is the standard variety for pies and tarts, while Starkrimson and Stark Gold are old-time sweet varieties delicious for eating out of hand.

What Ken calls Rainbow is the most striking sweet cherry of all, as well as a novelty and a puzzle. The stripe down its middle can occur as a mutation on the odd branch of the occasional tree, but a whole treeful is a rarity. Tasting to check for ripeness, Ken says, “This may be one of the only Rainbow Cherry trees in Wisconsin.” Sounds like a stretch, but the botanists I’ve consulted say he’s probably right.

A cherry sampler

Starkrimson.
Rainbow.
Stark Gold.
Montmorency.

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