HE may have written a song called Cherry Baby but Neil Diamond is not the only one with a passion for a sweet delight.
Orchardists in the Young district of Central NSW have been growing cherries since 1847 and along with Orange produce 70 per cent of the cherries grown in the state and about half of Australia’s total production.
And every year at harvest time they love to show off the crop in a quirky and colourful three-day celebration.
Activities at this year’s National Cherry Festival, from December 1-3, include cherry pie eating championships, cherry pip-spitting competitions, a heritage rally, street parade, farmers and producers markets, fringe events, live music (Troy Cassar-Daly will be playing at the Services Club; book in advance) and much more.
Foodies will be in their element, especially visitors of the do-it-yourself variety, who will also be able to pick their own cherries from local orchards and buy direct from the growers. (Bear in mind, however, that the cherry harvest is weather dependent – timings vary on spring temperatures and conditions – so it is best to call the Young Visitor Information Centre and check orchard opening times before you leave home.)
Flan fans, meanwhile, will be able to buy cherry pies at the orchards or in town, where a number of businesses freeze enough of the crop to ensure supply year-round.
Many of the region’s fruit growers sell delicious home-made fudges, jams, chutneys and sauces at the door and in local shops. Poppa’s Fudge and Jam Factory in Young, for example, produces more than 50 varieties of fudge and 100-plus lines of jams, sauces and chutneys.
The Country Women’s Association has encouraged locals to learn to bake and preserve, so look for scrumptious desserts and wonderful cakes and pies at cafes and pubs in town.
Cherry wines, juice and liqueurs are also available to buy and sample.
Accommodation is at a premium during the festival. If you can’t find a room locally, try the neighbouring towns and villages of Boorowa, Harden or Jugiong, or further afield in Cowra, Cootamundra or Yass.