Monday, July 4, 2011

A Post About Cherries...In Which I'll Probably Gross You Out

Mmmmm...

Cherries.



Besides the watermelon, is there any fruit more quintessentially summer than cherries? I was visiting my family this past week and I was very happy to learn there was a local orchard that was allowing common people to come in and glean their Bing cherries. My little sister and I jumped all over that, and in the course of two days and a total of about six hours we picked close to a hundred pounds of cherries, which we split between us.

These cherries came from a neglected orchard. My theory, and my sister agrees, is the orchard has been bought by developers, but because there are still empty lots surrounding the orchard they aren't going to the trouble of pulling the trees out until the land is needed. Oh well, we'll gladly take those cherries off their hands.

However, since the orchard is neglected we ran into a little problem.

source

Mmmmm....?

Cherry maggots.

Ah, yes, the reason cherries are sprayed so heavily. Organic ways do exist to control them, but they're usually not the favored way amongst commercial orchards. And even organic sprays still kill beneficial insects. I estimate that 20-25% of the crop was infected with worms.

So, how to deal with worms? The usual answer is to soak the cherries, forcing the maggots to exit the fruit in an attempt to prevent drowning. The downside to this is your fruit will taste very watery and not very sweet. So, in my case since I don't see the point of eating a watered-down version of cherries, this isn't a viable option. I intend to make some fruit-only jam from part of the crop, and it's essential for the fruit to be as sweet as possible for that to work.

I could sort the cherries. I actually started doing that. It's mind-numbing work, even with the TV in the background. I just couldn't do it. Horrible. You have you check each cherry for a wormhole, it just takes too long in my opinion. Also, since it takes so long many of the non-wormy cherries would have gone bad by the end.

Well, I could cut each cherry open to pit it, and also evict it's resident. This is a slightly better option, but I pitted cherries like this a year or so ago and it's a tedious process. Throw two kids into the mix and it's a recipe for cherry-stained walls, if you catch my drift.

Well.

I could not care about the worms.

Yech.

Hmm, why yech?

Hello, MAGGOT! You know, those writhing, slimy, white things that eat rotting, putrid, dead flesh. But, well, these maggots have been eating sweet cherries. They're made of cherries. Heck, they're even the same texture as cherries.

But, ew, guts. Maggot guts. Seriously? Well, yeah, actually. I eat all sorts of guts. I eat liver, heart, tongue, and would be willing to eat sweetbreads (pancreas or thymus gland), tripe (stomach), and more. I eat clams and oysters whole, and that includes guts. So what makes this so different? And if you eat hot dogs, baloney, and other such food, there's a good chance you're eating organs as well.

But, can I honestly eat a bug? Chances are you already have. Insect parts and rodent hairs are commonly found in food. One estimate is that the average American consumes one to two pounds of insects a year. And I'm sure most of it isn't on purpose.

So, are the cherries even worth it? In situations such as this I like to think of my pioneer ancestors. What would they do if presented with fifty pounds of cherries? I'm sure they would jump all over that. Then they discover that about ten pounds of the cherries contain maggots. I'm thinking they would still eat the cherries, and probably wouldn't fuss too much about eating some worms.

In case you haven't gleaned (pun!) the information yet, I am consciously eating wormy cherries. If you're wondering, they still taste the same.

If you happen to have wormy cherries, here's what you can do with them. My little sister is planning on canning hers. My mom did this when they had a bad maggot year. When you open the jar to eat the cherries you just skim the worms off the top and then serve. No harm no foul.

If you aren't canning cherries this year, like me, then all the other options usually keep the worm inside. I'm not water bath canning because it's not my favorite thing to do. Instead I'm going to convert a large part of my cherries into jam and (shh!) use the inversion method to seal the jars. Throwing them into the blender before jamming should obliterate the worms so I don't have to see them and make a smooth jam. Yum.

Another way of cherry preservation is dehydration. Both of my dehydrators are full of whole pitted cherries. When they're done they'll make great snacks for the kids, and the worm will be invisible due to being dried out too. Bug jerky.

And our last method of saving our cherries is freezing after pitting. These cherries are specifically saved for smoothies. Since they'll be blended there's no chance of running into a whole worm.

But what's the point of saving all these cherries if I can't bring myself to eat them when the time comes? Making sure I can eat wormy cherries is a priority. To accomplish this task I've been eating my fresh cherries. Without checking for worms. I've learned that telling myself "There isn't a worm, there isn't a worm," doesn't work very well. There ARE worms, and it's just a matter of time until I ran into one. Instead I would chant in my head, "You're eating a worm, and that's okay. Just like oysters, just smaller." Ta-da! Mission accomplished, I'm now eating worms. Even The Hubby is on board with this, especially when he saw how much work it took to process the harvest even without worrying for worms.

Have I convinced you to eat wormy cherries? No? Don't worry, I won't be offering my cherry jam to anyone. I'll have plenty of blackberry jam later in the season and I love to share.

Have you decided that eating worms is no big deal? Then come on over and have some pie. Extra protein at no extra cost.

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This post has been shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

24 comments:

  1. Great post! Your father sat down with a bowl the other night. I asked if he was going to check for worms. His answer, "Why? If you just pop them in your mouth and chew you'll never know." I keep thinking of those guys on Dual Survival - yes, the *hippie* would eat the worms - no questions asked.

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  2. I would definitely eat your pie! I am too squeamish to eat a worm in plain sight, but I don't think I'd be bothered by knowing that a few were cooking/frozen and then maybe blended into something.

    So far we've only seen 1 worm so far in our cherries, but we didn't pick nearly as many as you did! So far, besides just eating them, I've made cherry lemonade bars (yeah, not incredibly healthy!) and I'll pit and freeze the rest for smoothies I think.

    -Hannah (Jillyn's friend from the splash park)

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  3. Love it! You're awesome! It was fantastic seeing you before I moved. My mom just froze all the cherries whole. They were really yummy....mmmmmm

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  4. Yeah, we had 50 pounds of oatmeal once that got little tiny worms in it. You can bet we ate the whole thing as my mom is super fruuuuugal. :) We also had 30-ish fruit trees and didn't spray (a cherry tree amongst, though mostly apples and pears) so you can bet I've eaten worms. I try to evict the worms (I don't want to KNOW I am eating the worm...), but don't worry too much if I don't ...

    And if anyone thinks commercially sprayed crops are 100 % worm free, they have another thing coming! lol, you don't think the canning factory is deworming the cherry crop, eh?

    We had a corn roast once and had people shuck the corn after picking it from our corn patch. A few were grossed out by corn ear worms. it was pretty funny.

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  5. I have found that if you put them in the fridge the worms then to come out of the cherries looking to warmth.

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  6. Mom, thanks for raising us so well. ;)

    Hannah, those bars sound so good! My friend was telling me she juiced cherries one year and would mix a cup of cherry juice with a pitcher of lemonade. Yummm...

    Fotochikyo, I loved seeing you, too. Have fun at your new place!

    Caroline, we seriously need to meet, I think we would get along splendidly. And I hear you about those army worms. We always threw them to the chickens, they love 'em.

    Andrea, I'm glad I could make you giggle.

    Michelle, that's a great tip! Yet another reason I would like another fridge...

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  7. It's rather gross when cleaning corn or peeling cucumbers to find a worm inside your food. My chickens like them, though!

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  8. Thanks so much for sharing and linking up at Simple Lives Thursday! Love this post! I can totally relate. I've bought delicious looking mangos from the market and sometimes find maggots in them, but I just scoop them out with a spoon or if I don't get them all... just throw em in the blender with some kefir! LOL!

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  9. That's a little nasty, but I couldn't let them go to waste, either.

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  10. Wow ... I clicked over thinking "No way I will be grossed out; I don't gross out easily" and here I am, kinda grossed out. I guess I'm a pickier eater than I thought.

    I give plums right off our tree to my toddler though, and he doesn't even care that there are ants and other bugs boiling out of the tiny holes as he starts to munch! Perhaps I could learn from him.

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  11. have to admit I did do the shudder, but then again I have probably eaten my share of worms in fruit, growing up on the site of a former apple orchard.

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  12. My mom claims she found my sister in the garden once, as a toddler, with half a caterpillar in her hand. I have to admit, the pic was genuinely gross. Good choices, I think, especially with the blender.

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  13. This is good. I have been eating already nibbled by something tomatoes when my hubby is not looking. My garden has been hard worked and earned. Squash got some rot. Cut it off and prepare the rest.

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  14. LOL! Just be very careful with the inversion method for your jam. Cook your recipe well (to a full rolling boil for at least 5 minutes) and make doubly sure you have HOT sterilized jars to ladle it into or you could end up with spoilage.

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  15. Oh my...coming here late via Simple LIves Thursday..this post is a CRACK UP! Seriously, were you in my kitchen today?? I processed about 40 lbs of gorgeous cherries, and had this exact conversation with my Sis-in-law. Right down to the "what would the pioneers have done??" question!

    Our conclusion: Of course we are eating the worms! These cherries are just to beautiful not to! (pureed, cooked, dried...worm process quite nicely we found) And seriously, I'd eat a pound of worm before I'd eat a teaspoon of pesticide. How bout you?
    Shawna in Northern CA

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  16. Shawna, AMEN!

    Nichole, I'm really careful with inversion, I hate it when I lose a seal.

    Donna, way to go! The best produce is the stuff the bugs have nibbled on. They know what tastes good.

    Elizabeth, just, ew.

    Lisa, Sheila, sorry to gross you gals out.

    Laurie, I totally agree.

    Marillyn, I would love to share your mango smoothies.

    Paula, finding bugs in my food is still startling. Don't tell anyone, but I sometimes have hysterics like a Victorian lady.

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  17. This makes me smile and think of my Grandfather, he just would say 'more protein' and eat the fruit!

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  18. I know this post is a couple of years old, but I have to tell you this. So I'm eating my cherries here in Mexico that I bought at the organic farmer's market. Little worms. I'm NOT a squeamish person, I'm great with bugs and spiders and snakes, but maggots will send me into my best girly-screaming mode on the right day. But I didn't get weirded out at ALL with these ones. So much so, that I had to Google them to see if I should trust my intuition (which said to just eat the cherries without looking) or if I really have been out of "civilization" for too long. And, you already know the answer. It was weird for it not to be weird. I'm eating delicious worms.
    Whatever - they sell fried crickets at the market too.

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  19. Thanks for posting this witty and informative post. I'm convinced to at least reconsider throwing out my 15 lbs of free cherries, 70% of which contain maggots.

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  20. Oh, and hilarious. I'm Krista too!

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  21. I'm so glad this information is still here for another cherry season! Enjoy those worms, they're good for ya. ;)

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  22. Brilliant post yup I eat them. :)

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  23. Excellent write up. I had friends over to help pick my cherries Saturday - after tons had been eaten and picked I discovered worms in the cherries; I haen't told my friends though cause you are right they taste just the same with or without worms.

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