This post was first published in August of 2011. The Cherry Orchard is going strong and the cherries are now ready for your picking pleasure!
Submitted by Carolyn and Judy Brown
Who would have thought you could have a cherry ranch way up north in the Peace Country? John and Colleen Stewart did, and it worked. The Peace Cherry Ranch near Berwyn is now seven years strong.
We went this past week and picked three of the seven kinds of cherries grown on the ranch: Cupids, Valentines, and Romeos. All of the trees are about four feet tall and loaded with cherries, smaller, brighter, and with more powerful flavour than typical store-bought cherries. The sight of those small red orbs dangling almost translucent in the sunlight was truly something to behold. Mouthwatering! It was easy picking since the trees are short and the fruit comes off by the handful. We filled a pail in about 15 minutes.
Most of the cherry varieties are just ripening, as are the honeyberries. Honeyberries are a kind of honeysuckle fruit that has been bred to taste good. John remembers picking them when he was a child from a variety of bush developed in Beaverlodge. Honeyberries have been around the Peace Country for a while, but just recently they have become far more popular. It’s not surprising. Besides their high yield, extreme hardiness, and ornamental qualities, honeyberries taste good! The taste is something like a blueberry, but with a tangier flavour. Honeyberries are the same colour as blueberries, but their shape is more like a jellybean. They are also easier to pick since they grow up on the bush just under the leaves.
The haskap was just about finished for the summer. We got the last half pail, but it was a good taste of an unusual fruit. Haskap is also a form of honeysuckle fruit. It’s a bigger berry than honeyberry and squarish in shape, and the flavour isn’t as sweet. Some people say haskap tastes like a cross between raspberries and blueberries.
Whatever you do with blueberries, saskatoons or raspberries you can do with honeyberry and haskap. The cherries we picked were excellent on cheesecake. They also make excellent jam. Fresh cherry pie sounds good too. The berries are easy to freeze for a dash of summer flavour next winter. If you want unsquished berries to ornament the top of a fancy dessert, it is suggested you spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze them before putting them in a freezer bag.
If you would like to visit the Peace Cherry Ranch, head for Berwyn. Before you get there, keep an eye out for a sign on the left side of the road. It will direct you down a back road to the right, or south, for a couple of miles until you see the ranch on the right. It’s a good idea to call ahead to arrange for picking. John gave us an excellent tour and description of the berries. Oh, and watch out for the basset hounds. They also grow those.