Tag Archives: Blue Ridge Parkway

Cherry Picking Time at Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia

It’s cherry-picking time in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, a great time to drop in at Levering Orchard. The baked goods you’ll make with the cherries you don’t eat during the drive home will be fantastic.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

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More than 150 tall wooden ladders let pickers reach cherries at Levering Orchard.

The first time I met Levering Orchard owner Frank Levering, he spoke eloquently about ladders.

“I love ladders,” he mused, a muddy boot perched on a low rung and a weathered hand gripping a little higher on one of the more than 150 tall wooden ladders he uses to reach fruit at his popular you-pick operation in western Virginia. “I guess any worker gets attached to the tools of his trade. I take good care of the ladders and they take good care of me. Ladders are like bridges between the ground and the sky. They’re physical links between me and the fruit.”

Frank has a special affinity for ladders.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Frank, who grew up in this scenic orchard just off the Blue Ridge Parkway where his parents and grandparents before him also tended the fruit as far back as 1908, is a poet and writer as well. As a younger man he took screenplay-writing ambitions to Hollywood and met moderate success. Even now that he’s been back home for nearly three decades and is well ensconced as an orchardist, he sometimes writes plays during the winter off-season and in late summer produces shows at a little outdoor stage on the steeply sloped property.

I filled these buckets in about a half hour.

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RECIPE Cherry Crisp from Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia

It’s a fact: Baking with cherries you picked yourself makes them taste better. Harvest some at this western Virginia orchard, and you’ll understand.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Click here to see a separate post about Cherry Picking Time at Levering Orchard

Click here to see a separate post with a recipe for Cherry Pie from Levering Orchard

Cherry Crisp

This recipe for Cherry Crisp went over very well at my house. My family quickly finished off the initial batch and clamored for more. I’d brought back plenty of cherries from my visit to the you-pick operation at Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia—more than we were likely to eat as raw snacks before they began to rot—so I gladly started in making a double batch. The second time around I had enough to satisfy the home front and share some with a neighbor.

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RECIPE Cherry Pie from Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia

With delicious cherries in season, I head to Levering Orchard in western Virginia for pick-your-own fruit, a lovely outing in a beautiful setting, and cherry recipes to bake when I get home.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Click here to see a separate post about Cherry Picking Time at Levering Orchard

Click here to see a separate post with a recipe for Cherry Crisp from Levering Orchard

A day before I made this pie, the tart cherries I picked for it were still hanging on trees.

I picked the cherries that went into the pie I’m eating as I write this. There’s a sense of accomplishment—and a certain smug pleasure—in this fact. Besides reveling in buckets full of fresh cherries to snack on raw and to bake into various treats, I also have fresh memories of spending a lovely day in a century-old orchard perched on a verdant slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains just off the road-trip-worthy Blue Ridge Parkway.

Ready for picking

At Levering Orchard in western Virginia, the southernmost cherry orchard in the eastern United States, people can drive up, borrow plastic pales, climb wooden ladders already placed in ripe locations, and harvest as much fruit as they want (paying $2.49 per pound as they leave). Red and purple fingers belie the effort, and red and purple tongues offer evidence that sampling while picking is not only common but also encouraged.

A sweet slice of homemade cherry pie, loaded with fruit as well as memories of a fine day of cherry picking.

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