Founded in 1936, Batch's Family Orchards in Washington's Lake Chelan Valley grows tree-ripened apples, pears, and cherries that are "picked at their peak" and shipped immediately to customers smart and organized enough to have placed a preorder for their amazing fruit (more on this later).
Before we left for Italy, Greg Batch contacted me to send a sample of his Lapin cherries, which coveniently would be ripening just as we returned to New York. It was the first time I ever received cherries shipped to my door, and I was impressed that they arrived fresh, intact, and unbruised.
Lapin cherries (named for lapin, French for rabbit), are a variety of sweet cherries characterized by dark ruby skin, deep red flesh, and tremendous size. I don't think I've ever tasted cherries so large and so meaty. They are also super sweet, without a trace of sour flavor. Sinking your teeth into the big, crisp fruit is almost biting into tiny red plumbs, considering the amount of flesh that surrounds the pit.
Batch's Family Orchards cherry crop spans 11 acres, including Sweetheart and Bing varieties along with the Lapins. The cherries are left on the tree until they are ripe, then hand picked and shipped either on the same day or the next. Bear in mind that these cherries aren't cheap (depending on the size of an order -- 3, 5, and 10 pound increments -- the cherries range in price from roughly $11 to $17 per pound), so think of them as a summer luxury.
Because the cherries are sold only when they have achieved their maximum ripeness, Batch's Family Orchards depends upon preorders. Alas, at the time of this writing there are no cherries left for this season. However, preorders may be placed this fall for next July's harvest. Fall is also when Batch's will be shipping apples (Gala, Braeburn, Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, and Fuji), for which preorders will start in late August 2005.
Batch's Family Orchards Lapin cherries, ranging from $49.95 for three pounds to $109.95 for ten pounds, are available for purchase through Chefshop.com (1.877.337.2491).