The chokecherries are ready to harvest! I don’t know why the birds haven’t gotten them all, but I’m glad! Last weekend, hubby and I harvested 25# of these beauties, most of which are bubbling into wine right now. We saved out a few pounds to make jelly and syrup with, too. They are delicious when cooked, but very astringent when you eat them raw. It feels like they suck the spit right out of your mouth, leaving it dry and feeling weird.
One of the ways to know you have chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) is to look on the leaf petiole (stem) to see if it has a couple of little glands – they look like tiny bumps, and you can see them here, just barely. Black cherries hang in a long cluster, just like chokecherries, and can be used interchangeably.
To make a syrup, I pull the little berries off the stems and put them in a pan with enough water to not-quite-cover them. I simmer until they get good and soft and I start seeing the pits floating around, then strain the pits out, keeping as much of the pulp as I can. (I like my syrup chunky….if you like it smooth, then you’ll want to use a finer mesh to strain just the juice). I’ll put the chunky juice back into the pan with an equal amount of organic sugar, then boil until I can’t stir it down. Cool and refrigerate. So far the syrup I made has lasted a week in the fridge, and I am going to freeze it soon. I’m using it to flavor my kombucha, and over ice cream.