When I was a boy in the Similkameen, we were told that choke cherries would, well, choke you. Fruit that grew wild on the land was, we were told, poisonous. Sigh. Such words are poisonous. They taught us to be afraid of the land. Too bad. Choke is such an honourable old English word, used for the wild pears that spring up in every hedgerow across the Pond, and translated into the new language of the Okanagan as choke cherries. As kids on this land, we were wild like that. At least the cherries stayed that way. Here’s a choke cherry orchard, walking up the path of rain and snowmelt as they move down into the wetlands far below:

Choke Cherry Orchard Choke Cherry Orchard in the Bella Vista Hills

This is what water looks like when it holds still in the air and does not flow away.

And here’s what the choke cherries look like as they begin to take over our own low-maintenance, automatically-sprinklered, water-metered landscape art:

Volunteer Cherries in the Shrubberies!

A Late October Crop of Choke Cherries Volunteers to Replace the Junipers

Compared to that, a modern, industrial, high-density orchard, with a shelf-life of ten years, looks pretty fragile:

weedsprayed apple stumps behind a deer fenceHigh Density Orchard, with Weed-Sprayed Stumps and Deer Fence

This is how you treat slaves.

Now, I’m all for industry as the engine of economic, community, and family wealth, but, really, does it have to be done with such disrespect? Take another look at that photo. Do you see the choke cherries following the draws up into the hills? Smart, huh.

Tomorrow: Wild Harvest, as an industrial and community model.

Categories: Agriculture, Water

2 replies »

  1. I laughed out loud at the beginning of this post, Harold: in the Shuswap I was similarly afeared of choke cherries, and choking. We ate a ton of wild fruit (saskatoons, strawberries, crabapples, etc), but choke cherries were beyond the pale.

    I wish I liked them now, but honestly I don’t, at least not the ones that grow sporadically around here. Too much moisture, maybe?


    • Oh, they’re sour, for sure, but so are choke pears, and they make lovely perry. Who knows what a little malolactic fermentation might do. Did you eat any of those wild native crab apples? I’d love to know if they’re any different in the Shuswap. So far, I have crimson in Vernon, black in Falkland, and small and a darker red in the Beaver Valley. Anything different in Salmon Arm?


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