Aug 3, 2018

Bing Cherries

Bing cherries are dark deep red, sweet, glistening, and big. The Bing cherry is America’s most produced variety. The man who helped propagate it, a Chinese foreman named Ah Bing, is a mostly forgotten representative of the Chinese workers who labored to establish orchards in the old American West.

During the mid 1800s, the Lewellings Quaker family headed west with 700 fruit trees. Their journey took them to Milwaukie, Oregon, where they established the West Coast’s first thriving nursery business. The Lewelling orchards of prunes, apples, and cherries kickstarted Oregon’s fruit-growing industry.

Ah Bing worked on the Lewelling’s farm. Sarah Ledding described him as more than six feet tall, of Manchu descent, hailing from the north of China. Ah Bing worked for Lewelling for more than 30 years, grafting, propagating, and caring for trees. The Bing cherry, Ledding recalled, surfaced one day when Lewelling and Ah Bing walked through the rows of cherry trees, where each man maintained separate rows.

In Ah Bing’s row, there was a marvelous new type of cherry. Someone suggested that Lewelling name the cherry after himself. But he said, “No, I’ll name this for Bing. It’s a big cherry and Bing is big, and anyway it’s in his row, so that shall be its name.” Next time you see them in the store I know you will say under your breath, "Ah, Bing."

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