Christmas is such a special time of the year – where families get time to spend together and explore their surroundings. I have childhood memories going back to Christmas time in Zimbabwe and the joy of walking in the bush together picking flame lilies for the Christmas table, waiting for the summer rains and rushing out into the vlei to gather little button mushrooms with soft pink flesh and then the scrumptious smell of them being cooked for breakfast. But the overriding memory is of the togetherness and the family traditions, many of which have been handed onto our children. So it is with great delight that cherry picking has become one of our family traditions at Christmas time in the Cape.

Every year we pick a day, grab our BIG containers and head for Ceres. We start early, around 6 am or earlier and are often treated to a magnificent sunrise. This year we left in the pouring rain with a dash of lightening. But we were rewarded with a splendid rainbow, cool weather and empty roads! The drive is stunning, farmlands turning into undulating mountains tipped with the glory of soft morning light. The Hugenot tunnel always invites the challenge of who can hold their breath for the longest and at last we emerge into the splendor of the mountains near Worcester. Taking the Slanghoek Pass route treats us to quaint little farm houses, magnificent vineyards, winding rivers and even an occasional waterfall. The 2 hours whizz by and before we know it we pull into the Wimpy or Ceres Inn for a well-deserved breakfast to energize us for the “Great Pick”!

Driving straight through Ceres and out for some 30 km will bring you to Klondyke Farm, situated in the heart of the Ceres valley. Ceres, named after the Roman Goddess of Agriculture is a place of severe contrasts. In early summer, the area is a mass of fruit blossoms with loads of hikes and the famous Ceres zip line. In winter it is transformed into a winter wonderland with snow and icicles. Klondyke farm is famous for its cherry picking and is well organized with large picnic sites and accommodation for those who really want to take cherry picking to a whole new level. Getting there early means you have the pick of the spots and the more importantly you get to grab a ladder, a rare treat as they are in short supply.

Cherry trees in fruit are beautiful. No wonder the Japanese have cherry blossoms as their national flower, symbolizing beauty, courtesy and modesty. It is such a festive atmosphere as families with young and old wander through the orchard, containers in hand and choosing only the juiciest of cherries to pick. For serious pickers, it’s up the ladder, heads up and into the branches and nimble fingers nipping the stalks as the cherries tumble into the containers. Where ladders are not available, it’s cool to create a human ladder, easier to move around and much more fun! For the not so serious pickers, it’s a “spit the pit” competition. This is hilarious as cherries pits fly in all directions to see who can spit the furthest. Equally entertaining is “pop the cherry” where one person throws a cherry and the other person tries to catch it in her or his mouth. In a good crop year, a cherry tree can have an average of 800 cherries so there is plenty for everyone. It’s best to pick cherries with their stalk on to preserve the cherry for the trip home.  Take time to enjoy the moment, savour the taste and look out for treat little friends who are also enjoying their cherry breakfast!

After filling the containers and weighing them, make a bee line for your chosen picnic spot and enjoy a well-earned cup of coffee and nibble before you head for home and start the fun task of depipping and preserving your feast of cherries. Cherry season is short – usually from the end of November to the first week in January so pick your time and head for the hills – you won’t regret it!

Helpful hints:

Places for breakfast:

  • Ceres wimpy – after 8.30
  • Ceres Inn – 8am – very helpful and good food

Klondyke Farm takes cash and cards and provides containers but you can take your own

Take water and nibbles, sun tan lotion, hats and good shoes as there are prickles, picnic blankets, chairs and picnic blankets.

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