Cherry Blossoms: Subtly Sweet Signs of Spring

Driving today on the Leelanau Peninsula, I noticed the cherry trees beginning to bloom. Apparently, the south side of the farms have warmed and are ready to begin the growing season, while the trees planted in the north appeared a little less eager to wake from winter’s slumber. Within days, the orchards will be adorned in pinkish white petals.

Across cultures, the bloom of the cherry tree is revered. In both China and Japan, annual celebrations mark this special time in the growing season. The delicate, short-lived blossom symbolizes the temporariness of human life. In the span of a growing season, an orchard in bloom lasts the equivalent length of a sunrise; you glance momentarily at the sun peeking over the horizon, while sipping morning coffee. Before long, this fiery orb fills the sky and you return to your oatmeal as if nothing miraculous happened at all.

As breathtaking as a sunrise, the blossoming cherry trees have this same potential for being overlooked. Without fanfare the blossoms emerge, signaling the start of the annual growing season and fortelling the fruits to come. High off the ground, this delicate flower begins growing as the unpredictable north leaves them susceptible to devastating frosts. At the end of their short lives, the blossoms sprinkle to the ground and cover the ground as snow and then return again to the earth.

The Leelanau Peninsula is known for its cherries, and the opportunity to witness the gorgeous spring bouquets of blossoms bursting in the orchards is here and now. Check out the 2009 Cherry Blossom Tour this weekend or make a date to tour the area. No reservations are required, but this show runs for a limited time only and will not be back again until 2010!

Dark Chocolate Chunk and Dried Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

* 1 cup butter
* 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
* 2 eggs
* 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3 cups oats
* 1 cup dried cherries
* 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture just until combined. Do not overmix. Stir in oats, cherries, and chocolate.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto lined or lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom edges are lightly browned. Cool on pans for a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

These may also be made into bar cookies. Press the dough into a lightly greased 13?x 9? baking pan. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Photos: Blossom, Barn & Blue Sky and Blue Sky & Blossoms by Andrew McFarlane. You can click both of them for background-big pictures!

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