In the Markets: Sour Cherries and Green Almonds
There are precious few types of produce that are truly difficult to find fresh in our area. Given our long growing season and our outstanding weather, with sufficient application of water one can grow nearly anything--except sour cherries.
These cherries, which are about a third to half the size of the monster sweet cherries that have been flooding the markets recently, are called "pie cherries" for the simple reason that the only possible thing to do with them is add sweetener, which causes them to become the world's most perfect pie filling.
The problem is that California grows almost no pie cherries. Almost 100% of the cherries grown west of the Mississippi river are sweet cherries, which make fine eating but mediocre pie. Michigan is ground zero for the sour cherry.
That said, Wholesome Choice in Irvine and Anaheim Hills manages to get what few fresh sour cherries they can, but usually only for a space of about two weeks, which started Saturday. Fresh sour cherries are on sale for $5.39 a pound, with a choice of one- or two-pound punnets.
Bear in mind when cherrying that a pound of pitted pie cherries requires about half a cup of sugar to become even slightly palatable.
Also found at the Irvine Wholesome Choice were another two-week treat, green almonds. These are the 'fruit' of the almond (we generally eat the kernel, erroneously labeled a "nut"), a fuzzy, greenish fruit that, when immature, can be eaten whole (usually with olive oil and salt in Persian households, where they are most popular). The inside will be gelatinous and grassy. After the almond has started to mature slightly, the kernel inside starts to develop more and you will notice a more almond-y taste; at this point, don't eat the outer skin, which will be tough.