A few weeks ago I wrote about foraging for fruit of the Amelanchier–native to North America and better known as serviceberries or juneberries–in the current issue of Edible Manhattan. Those fantastic fruits are now ripe, juicy and sweet in Battery Park, in the Hudson River Park, Tear Drop Park, Central Park, Inwood, on the newly opened part of the Highline. (And in Brooklyn, in front of brownstones in Brooklyn Heights, in Dumbo on the water between the bridges, and at Pier One in the Brooklyn Bridge Park.)
As the berries turn from bright red to near-black, you have another week to grab them before they drop. When perfectly ripe, they are as sweet as apples and as juicy as blueberries. I eat them raw as I pick, and turn them into pie–you can find the recipe at 66 Square Feet (the Food), the recipe companion to my blog on foraging and rooftop gardening–when I get home. The cooked berries yield a lot of deep-purple syrup, something to bottle and mix with seltzer and lime on the long hot days ahead, or to drizzle over vanilla ice cream.
At my house several quarts of the berries are now soaking in gin which is slowly turning pink, while another lot is contemplating the Calvados bath that surrounds them. I think bourbon may be a good match, too, for a thoroughly American blend. In a few months, if I can hold out that long, I shall decant them and taste the whisper of marzipan in the liquor, which is released by the tiny seeds inside each berry.