Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Everything I know about picking raspberries, I learned from my Grandmother
As far back as my memories go, my grandparents have had a long row of raspberry plants in their garden. Technically, they didn't move into that house, or plant those raspberries until I was 3 or 4... but I don't remember that far back! These raspberry plants are pretty prolific, and they produce some seriously delicious berries.
My grandmother had a long tradition of bartering and sharing her raspberries. She'd give pints of berries to the people at the print shop who printed up her newsletters for the local Sierra Club, she'd share them with friends, trade for services... Not to mention eat them for dessert almost every night.
When they're at their peak, these plants seriously pump out the berries. This is our first year having a raspberry crop without my grandmother, and it gives us a chance to appreciate what a faithful and dedicated picker she was! Nowadays, we split it up and spread it out through the week so that everyone gets a chance to eat the berries and do the work.
This morning I picked 8 strawberry baskets of raspberries in one hour! In the spirit of my grandma, we kept a couple, and distributed the rest amongst friends and family.
Over the years, my grandmother gave me all sorts of tips for picking raspberries. Here's what I learned, in case you have an opportunity to go berry picking!
- A properly ripe raspberry should come off with a very gentle touch. At the most, an encouraging tug is fine, but if you tug and it doesn't come off - leave it be for now. It's not ripe yet! The best is if you just touch it and it falls into your hand. The worst is if you just touch it and it falls down into the jungle of thorny raspberry plants. So tragic!
- A ripe raspberry should be a bright, deep red. If it's still orangey-pink, it's not ripe yet. Generally, the darker the sweeter. If they get too dark though, they start to get more seed-y and less fruit-y. I love 'em a little on the tangy side... fire engine red!
- If you find a berry that has gone past its prime (so sad!), you should still pick it & discard it. This will help encourage future berry production for your belly's satisfaction!
- All the good berries are in hard to find spots: down low, under leaves, in the middle. You gotta get down low and hunt for them! Nowadays, when I go a-pickin' I pretty much hunker down, and start lifting leaves, and searching into the depths of the plants - until my arms are all scratched up and I can't see any more berries. Then I scoot over a couple of feet and repeat the whole process.
I love raspberry picking. I feel so close to my grandma when I'm out there in the garden... I think of her the whole time and all the countless, countless times we picked raspberries together and then enjoyed them together. They are a real family staple - at birthday parties, family gatherings, served over ice cream or with cookies or cake... It's neat to see that now my nephews are fans of raspberries... it's become a generational part of our family. We're all so spoiled and grateful to have all these delicious raspberries at our fingertips. It's not uncommon for people to disappear into the raspberry patch for a few minutes before they even make it inside to say hello!
These are SO good plain and fresh, I almost never get around to cooking with them. But if you have any recipe suggestions, I'm always interested in hearing your ideas!