Although I long for places where I have traveled, for visits with our friends and family who live far away, and for places unknown, I am surprised that the strongest pull is home. For the first time in my adult life I love being home and tending our tiny patch of earth. After two years of labor, our outdoor space is starting to come together. We removed a deck, some questionable trees and shrubs, many invasive plants, and grass. We replaced them with fruit trees, natives, herbs, vegetables, berries, and perennials. We now have a tightly packed hodge-podge of plantings that only we can love.
And yet we are greedy for just a little more land. I feel this desire when I buy cherries at the farmers’ market and long for our own cherry trees, not one tree, but a few varieties. And while gazing at my pint of cherries, I think about mulberries, tayberries, pears, and sea buckthorn. And I can’t even begin with the endless list of herbs and flowers.
But we like where we live. Our neighbors are close and are always there to help. We share advice, baked goods, and plum jelly. There are kids playing and people sitting on front porches. I love the spontaneous conversations that happen while we do our yard work. I value these connections.
As much as I love our urban home and the access to all the things that this amazing city has to offer, I do miss the rural life. Maybe the only solution is both. We talk about buying a small patch of land outside of town. But for now, we will have to buy our cherries.
Cherry season is always too short, so we like to enjoy them in everything we can: Oven pancake, almond buckle, shrub, and cocktails. I like to process sour cherries to make enough brandied cherries for our winter Manhattans. When local cherries appear in the market, our thyme is usually growing like mad, so I tend to combine cherries and thyme into a cooling cocktail. However, this year we both decided that the combination tastes a bit too much like cough syrup, so I set out to improve it.
I noticed that the tarragon was looking vibrant and lush. I was surprised to learn that tarragon is in the Artemisia family. I have a big crush on the Artemisia family and have planted a few of its members. Last year I found a sad, tiny mugwort plant on sale at the nursery and I expected it to die before winter, but now it is EIGHT FEET tall and so robust, it is such a mighty plant. Sometimes we just stand next to it and admire it. Our tarragon is not as mighty, but it packs a lot of flavor. I haven't always liked tarragon, but I realize that my experiences were with dried tarragon. Fresh tarragon is grassy, with an anise edge.
I thought that anise notes of the tarragon would pair well with cherries, especially if I bridged them with some Peychaud's bitters.
This combination makes an excellent unsweetened soda or flavored water too. In a glass, muddle 4-5 cherries with a few leaves of tarragon and a few dashes of bitters, if desired. Pour seltzer (or cold, flat water) over the muddled mix, stir gently, and drink. Why drink fruit flavored aspartame packets when it is so easy to make your own flavored water that is full of micronutrients?
Cherry Tarragon Fizz
Makes two cocktails
8-10 cherries, this is good with sweet black or Rainier cherries
6 leaves of French tarragon
2 ounces lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 ounces simple syrup
4 ounces gin
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Garnish: sprigs of tarragon, cherries, edible blossoms, or lime wheels
In a quart mason jar, muddle the cherries with pits intact. Use a muddler or a wooden spoon to muddle. Add the tarragon leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup; muddle gently. Add the gin, bitters, and ice to the jar. Cover tightly with a lid and shake well. Strain into ice-filled Collins glasses. Top each glass with seltzer, and stir gently. Garnish as desired.