February 28, 2011

Chasing Purple Cherries

How about a drive to the farm for a little relaxation today?  "No worries" replies my Hubby.  "By the way, look what I found the other day". 

Out from his working shirt pocket he produces a couple of berries.  Purple ones.  We gather round.  A search on the internet and it seems they are called 'purple cherries'.  Purple they are, cherries - well not as I know them to be.  I break one open and I'm immediately in familiar territory.  A lilly pilly.  Hubby has his doubts.  After all, lilly pillies have little hairy beards underneath and these didn't have those. 

They smell like lilly pillies and they have that distinct, white, powderiness in the fleshy part.  Mitch and Hubby do more research.  The purple cherry tree can grow up to 45 metres and is native to our corner of the world.  Sounds promising.

Hubby tells us he saw scatterings of the berries in the river beside our bridge.   They have come downstream.  The question is how far did they travel?  Where is the tree?  The current in our river is fairly strong, so they could have travelled from anywhere up the valley.  Wouldn't it be lovely if the tree were on our place.  The next thing I know, I'm changing into long pants and boots.  My afternoon of relaxation was about to turn into an afternoon of adventure and discovery. 

Half an hour and we're at the farm.  The afternoon is glorious, overcast with a slight breeze.  Not too hot.  We hop on the quad and head up the hills to check all the cows.  Looks like the "fly and tick deterrent rubs" are working well.  The cows look clean, healthy and happy.  Back down to the river. I spot some purple cherries in the water that have been trapped  in floating debris.  Aren't they a pretty colour?

We follow Hubby along the overgrown river bank.  During the recent floods this was all under water, so I walk very cautiously.  Before you know it Hubby is out of sight, but Mitch has kindly decided to stay behind his plodding mother.  We begin to spot some of the fallen cherries along our trail.  We come to a clearing and Hubby stands there looking up at this particular tree.  There are cherries under the tree but we can't sight anything directly above.  This is one tall tree.  We climb up the river bank hoping to have a better view to the tree tops.

There they are.  We spot a sprinkling of them dancing in the breeze.  There are birds in the tree.  Good. They must be safe to eat.  As for getting to the cherries.  Forget it.  The tree is right on the river, metres away from the bank and ridiculously tall.  There is no way we can reach them.  It wouldn't be worth it anyhow, as there are hardly any left.

We all feel chuffed that we have discovered this tree on our property and we head back to our undercover area to have a beer and a chat.  After about ten minutes, Hubby looks up, points and belts out "Hooley Dooley!  There are heaps of them".  We look over and we have a view directly of the tree from our rest area.  Overhanging the river, were a mass of purple cherries. 

A zoomed in picture as close as I could get to the purple cherries.
"You'll never know if you don't have a go!"  These words need to be engraved on my Hubby's headstone.  It describes him to a tee.  Any 'normal' person would think, that's it, they can't be reached, let's be grateful we found the tree and be done with it.  Not my Hubby.  The mind is ticking.  A plan is hatched.

I'm standing on the bridge listening to the loud antics in the bushes.  I can't see a thing.  The next thing, Hubby races down the bridge holding a strainer he finds in his shed.  He sits by the bridge.  Waiting.  He begins to scoop.  One cherry.  Another. And another.  Oh look out.  There's quite a few going by.  Quick. Catch them.

I'm handed the strainer and ordered to not let any cherries get away.  The problem is there are two directions from which they are coming, so this was one rather demanding request!  I begin dashing up and down the bridge, bending over, scooping as I go.  The run ceases.  I don't have many, but it's a start. 

I see Hubby disappear along the bank carrying a rope with a huge metal bolt attached to one end.  Heaven knows what he is up to.  I hear Mitch and Hubby.  Loud exchanges.  Water splashes.  Trees swaying.  Bushes bending.  "Watch out!"  Crashing sounds. 

My orders resonate from somewhere in the bushes.   "Hun!!! Get ready!!! They're coming!"

I stand at the bridge, armed with my strainer, whilst my eyesight strains trying to spot them. 

It doesn't take long.  One cherry.  Two. Three. One. Two. One.  Quick. To the other side.  Oh know, missed one.  Back to the other side.  A whole group of them.  Forget bending.  I'm lying on the bridge, desperately scooping with one hand whilst trying to stop the others with my other till I can get the strainer facing them.  Ahhh. Some are getting away. 

This went on for half an hour.  No kidding.  Hubby came down and relieved me for a bit, while I took some photos.  Then I took my station again.   Another fifteen minutes and I gave up.  Enough.  I spotted the odd one here and there.  The bucket was surprisingly filled and my bottom was unsurprisingly sore.  Enough.

My goodness.  My afternoon was an entertaining, unpredictable and a scrambling affair.  I had a ball.  I later learned that Mitch had a near disaster with the bolt.  It just missed him as it swung past in the air.  Turns out he was in the tree!!!! Lucky I couldn't see any of this from the bridge, or I truly would've been ranting.  

I'm home.  I only learned of purple cherries this morning.  After a "Basil Fawlty" afternoon, I have enough cherries to justify making a preserve.  Looks like Lilly Pilly Jelly is on the cards.  Hopefully a beautiful jewelled purple one.   Hubby fears the preserve may turn out to be a murky brown colour.  The colour purple is very tricky to achieve, I'm told.  And the colour on these cherries don't seem to be as concentrated as it is in the pink or the red lilly pilly.  Those varieties I know very well. 

As for the purple cherry; I have decided to continue on with this journey and see where it leads.  Hopefully, Purple Lilly Pilly Jelly is coming up.

PS:   Twenty nine years today.  My life has been unpredictable, never boring, challenging, exciting, fortunate and blessed.  All because of you.  And like your purple cherries; I never know what's around the bend.
Happy Anniversary Dear.


  1. Great fun read, Mariana, thank you, and happy anniversary to you both! I think the neighbours have purple lilly pillys - ours are quite red. We have a large stash of red ones in the freezer at the moment, and I'm thinking of trying to make a liqueur out of them - wish me luck! Can't wait to see if your jelly comes out purple.. :)

  2. Fishing for cherries - like panning for gold - I love this adventure - what a tale! and like Celia would love to see if you get violet jelly! I have a little shrub called callicarpa that has violet berries that the birds eat in the winter, but they are teeny tiny and I think I would get a tea cup ful if I picked them.

  3. I've never seen anything like these beauties. Enjoy them. Happy anniversary : )

  4. Happy Anniversary to you both!
    With such an adventure in getting them, I hope they make up a delicious jam or jelly for you. I keep eyeing off lilly pillys around the streets, so I can play with the flavours, but still haven't found one I can access properly. I'll keep an eye out for purple ones now too!

  5. Celia - We have a red lilly pilly tree too. Looking through my kitchen window during November and December was the most perfect lead up to Christmas. I was reminded everyday with vibrant green leaves and bunches upon bunches of bright red balls swaying before me. I admired them daily and it really felt like an Aussie Christmas.

    I have never thought to freeze them. I'd love to know what you make with them. Seriously. I'm really interested!!!

    Joanna - Your image of "panning for gold" made me smile. Perhaps because we really have done it and I can well relate. I know, I'd love to get violet jelly too. We'll see.

    Denise - Makes me wonder how many other "beauties" are out there that I haven't seen before.

    cityhippyfarmgirl - oh it sure was an adventure. Loads of fun though. I hope you get your hands on some and have a go. I'd love to know what you make and how it turns out. I'm very keen on any kind of lilly pilly.

  6. Beautiful.

    I've never seen anything so divine as that purple! xx

  7. They are gorgeous ........purple is my favourite colour! I can't wait to see the preserve.....Oh and Happy Anniversary and I am sure it certainly has been 29 years surprises!

  8. Yes my dear Gayle - you ought to know all about my "surprises". An eventful 29 years it most certainly has been.

    I didn't know purple was your favourite colour. Why did I think orange? News to me.

    Hope you got home safely. I guess your news over there is dominated with the earthquake. It was wonderful to see you recently and I look forward to seeing you in NZ this year. Just don't ask when!! But I'm coming. Promise!

    Mariana xxxxx