Every year, Washington, DC welcomes the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a tradition showcasing the gorgeous gift of 3,000 cherry trees the city of Tokyo gave to our nation’s capital. This year’s annual three-week, city-wide event was just celebrated from March 20th – April 13th.
While never having the pleasure of attending the festival, my family has been in DC when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. There is no sight quite like it, as you will see in the accompanying list.
The flowering cherry tree is ornamental only and does not bear cherries; however, the sight of them always makes me think of them. Thoughts of cherries always lead to images of cherry pies and cherry cheesecake. Try this recipe for what is known as the best unbaked cherry cheesecake.
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ cup margarine, softened
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
- 1 (12.5 ounce) can cherry pie filling (or another filling of your choice)
- Mix together graham crackers, margarine and sugar in a bowl until well incorporated and crumbly. Press into a pie plate, going up the sides as much as possible.
- Beat together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until smooth and spreadable.
- Whisk whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until smooth.
- Poor cream cheese into prepared crust.
- Smooth the top with a spatula. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 – 3 hours.
- Spread the cherry pie filling over the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Beautiful cherry blossoms
1912: February 14, 3,020 cherry trees from twelve varieties were shipped from Yokohama on board the S.S. Awa Maru, bound for Seattle. Upon arrival, they were transferred to insulated freight cars for the shipment to Washington. D.C. March 26: 3,020 cherry trees arrived in Washington, D.C.
Some history of these trees
1958: April 18, the Japanese Pagoda, hewn out of rough stone, was placed on the southwest bank of the Tidal Basin and dedicated. It was presented as a gift to the City of Washington, D.C., by the Mayor of Yokohama to "symbolize the spirit of friendship between the United States of America manifested in the Treaty of Peace, Amity and Commerce signed at Yokohama on March 31, 1854..."
Don't touch those trees
1938: So prominent were the cherry trees that a group of indignant women chained themselves together near them in a political statement against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They sought to stop the workmen who were preparing to clear ground for the construction of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. A compromise was reached wherein more trees would be planted along the south side of the Tidal Basin to frame the memorial.
3,800 more trees
1965: The Japanese Government made another generous gift of 3,800 Yoshino trees to another first lady devoted to the beautification of Washington, Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. American-grown this time, many of these are planted on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Lady Bird Johnson and Mrs. Ryuji Takeuchi, wife of Japan's Ambassador, reenacted the planting ceremony of 1912.
1997: June 17, in cooperation with the United States National Arboretum, cuttings were taken from the documented, surviving 1912 Yoshino cherry trees shipment, to ensure preservation of the trees' genetic lineage. These trees will be used in subsequent replacement plantings to preserve the genetic heritage of the grove.