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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Things that Make You Go "hmmm": Bing Cherries

I was pondering my three-day adventure at Double Mountain's Kriek Kamp this morning and began to consider the cherry at the heart of the enterprise. They are Bings, the most common cherry in America. Because of their ubiquity, I assumed they were an eastern fruit that, like so many other, found success thriving in the rich soil and long, sunny summer days of Oregon and Washington. That's mostly wrong, though.

The story starts out familiarly: an Iowan headed West with a wagon of fruit seedlings. He founded a nursery in Milwaukie (that's the suburb south of Portland, for non-Oregonians). But it was there that his foreman, Chinese born Ah Bing, crossed Iowan cherries with wild Oregon trees to produce the tree that now bears his name. I love everything about that story. I also love that the cherries used in the two varieties of Double Mountain's krieks are Rainier and Bings, both Pacific Northwest cultivars.

More cherry trivia. The fruit was not widely popular until recent decades. In the early part of the 20th century, people wanted maraschino cherries--mainly as ornaments for cocktails and desserts. As that article I linked to describes, maraschinos (which are truly gross) were "a cherry that has been bleached white then dyed red, impregnated with sugar, and packed in an almond-flavored syrup." Apparently "demand has softened" for them. Can't imagine why.

Here are a couple Bing-related photographs I took over the weekend.


  1. Jeff,

    I was under the impression that traditionally Krieks were made with tart cherries (Prunus cerasus) because of the more intense flavor and acid composition. Did Double Mountain explain why they chose sweet cherries instead?

  2. That's what he has planted in his orchard (along with Rainier). But I don't think it matters much. He brews a base beer and inoculates it with brettanomyces, then let's the fruit and beer sit a year. Those wild yeasts do the heavy lifting with regard to tartness.

  3. Oregon, and those silly Beavers at Oregon State more specifically, has actually played a big role in the history of maraschino cherries.

    This old Oregonian story goes into it: