What's in season: It's officially cherry season. Murray Family Farms, which is based in Arvin, just south of Bakersfield, started carrying Brooks and Glenare, the first cherries of the year, at the end of April. The season will begin later in more northern areas of the state and generally runs through mid-summer. But expect a smaller California crop this year, as the fruit suffered this past winter owing to multiple frost days and significant rain. As for varieties, the fruit range from dark, richly flavored Brooks to sweet Rainier cherries, as well as Early Burlat, Tulare and Flavor Giant. Royal K is an early variety known for its deep red color and sweet flavor, and spotting them is a telltale sign that summer is just around the corner.
What to cook: While there's nothing better — or more simple — than enjoying a bowlful of cherries by themselves, consider baking the cherries in quick breads or cakes, or use to flavor a traditional clafoutis, a French pudding-like dessert. You can also roast cherries to enhance their flavor, tossing the fruit with a little oil and cooking for only a few minutes until the fruit is softened and fragrant.
What's on the horizon: Mounds of summer squash and corn are showing up at stands.