Chiggers and Chokecherries and Jelly


For those of you who don’t live out west, and don’t live where the chokecherries grow, chokecherries are tiny berries with a big pit (relative to the size of the berry) and tart, but flavorful juice, good when made into jelly. I learned about chokecherries when I spent a summer in South Dakota as a teen.

With buckets in hand, we walked along the railroad tracks and along the Bad River searching for the tiny berries. It took awhile (at least in teenage time), but finally we had enough and stopped picking berries for a much needed swim. At home, my grandfather painted our chigger bites with nail polish to relieve the itch their tiny bites inspired.

We spent the next afternoon around the stove of our friend’s kitchen. I remember seeding the berries (that was a job!) and watching the big pot of bubbling juice. I remember skimming off the white foam and pouring the juice into the sterilized jars.

We brought jars of our chokecherry jelly home to California. Last summer, my brother discovered a jar of chokecherry jelly for sale at the general store in Custer State Park. He bought the jar and the memories it provoked back to California. I went home to Massachusetts and make Concord grape jelly instead.

If you live where the chokecherries grow, here’s a recipe to make your own jelly.

Chokecherry photo by Cindy Zackowitz licensed by CC under 2.0.

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