Sara Beth Times

By: 
Sara Beth Wald

Black teeth

My son has been coming home from bike rides with black teeth lately. I told him he looks like a zombie. He did his best undead impression, which, I hate to break it to him, is actually more sweet than scary.
The cause of his ghoulish appearance is actually far less creepy, and has nothing to do with his oral hygiene.
Turns out, my son is stopping along the way to snack on the wild chokecherries that are ripening all over town.
The bushes along the local bike trails are heavy with the small, dark red berries famous to the area.
So famous, in fact, that the town hosts an annual festival on the second weekend of September to celebrate them.
As tempting as the idea of wild berries might be, I wouldn’t recommend plucking just any old berry and popping it in your mouth the next time you’re on a leisurely walk unless you know what you’re doing.
You may mistake a poisonous berry for a chokecherry, which would be unfortunate. And even if you did find a chokecherry bush, you might be a bit disappointed by your first impression.
Not everyone shares my son’s fondness for the uncooked, unsweetened chokecherry (myself included.)
Chokecherries got their rather unappealing name from the reaction it incites when eaten raw. It isn’t unlikely that an unsuspecting victim might choke slightly upon tasting a fresh chokecherry.
Chokecherries are like rhubarb – if you try to eat them fresh off the plant, you’ll scrunch up your face in disgust. But if you add enough sugar and cook them until they are soft, you’ll fall in love.
A creative cook can find a multitude of ways to prepare chokecherries. In addition to the traditional jams, jellies, and syrups, you can also make chokecherry wine, salsa, marinade, barbeque sauce, candy, lemonade, vinegar and tarts.
Native Americans used chokecherries as a sedative to relieve the pains of childbirth. The medicinal qualities include the relief of intestinal distress and the bark is said to relieve a persistent a cough.
As for me, I stick to the classics. There’s nothing quite like chokecherry syrup on your pancakes or stirred into a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
But if, like my son, you acquire a taste for the raw chokecherry, I encourage you to try your hand (or mouth, rather) at the pit-spitting contest at the local festival.
If you’d like to hone your skills before the contest, simply take a stroll along one of the local creek bottoms or trails around town.
Just make sure you take a local with you, until you know for sure you’re eating chokecherries and not something else.
Chokecherries are small, about the size of a pencil eraser, and they are nearly black when ripe.
There are three rules to snacking on wild chokecherries:
Make sure what you’re eating is actually a chokecherry.
Don’t spit your pits on the trail.
And don’t be surprised if those you smile at along the way mistake you for a zombie.

An archive of The Sara Beth Times can be found at www.sarabethtimes.com.

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