July 18, 2010

Prunus serotina.

It's wild cherry time on the island. When my grandmother went away to college her parents would cut branches from the wild cherry trees and ship them to her, and she would sit on the floor of her dormitory room and eat them off the branch. I bike all over the island looking for the best tree. I rate them based on accessibility, the size of the fruit, and the sweetness of the cherries. Of the largest cherries I find, grandmother says that they must be growing over an old outhouse, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she is correct. The cherries turn jet black when ripe, varying in size from a pea to a marble, and there juice stains my hands and teeth. This taste, more than any other, is my summer. Sweat soaked cherry picking days. When we were children I would drag Laura along on my quest for the best tree. She never ate the fruit; she didn't eat fruit. Now I bike home with handfuls of fruit and spit the pits in the ditches, hoping to sow black cherry trees up and down Gumthicket Road. My grandmother used to walk with me to the closest trees and hold the branches low for me, so I could strip them of their fruit with greedy young hands. Now I drive to DC to stay with her, a bag of wild cherry branches on the passenger seat, and she sits in her chair overlooking the city and eats the black fruit from the branch.

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