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!

15 comments:

  1. Aww, such a wonderful post & informative too! I'll think of you & your Grandmother next time I make something with raspberries.

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  2. Raspberries are the best! My mom used to have a raspberry bush when I was younger, and there are some wild raspberries that grow by our cabin, so I have fond childhood memories of them, as well. Thanks for the tips! I'll use those the next time I go picking raspberries. :)

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  3. There is nothing better than freshly picked raspberries. We used to have a raspberry bush but my dad cut it down. =(

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  4. That photo of raspberries up top stopped me dead in my track- They're my absolute favorite! Last year, I picked so many that I would eat about 2 pints a day... We all joked that pretty soon I would turn into a raspberry! Alas, they're not yet in season and I can only drool over yours for now...

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  5. What a beautiful post. Thank you for relating how wonderful the raspberries are, as well as sharing the experiences of your family with us.

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  6. Raspberry-picking is so much fun - I haven't done it in years, and I miss it!! So lovely that raspberry-picking brings back such fond memories for you :0)

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  7. Such sweet memories! I am absolutely determined to go berry picking this summer. I'm also planning on putting in some berry bushes at our new house - the prospect of future berries out the back door is so exciting! :-)

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  8. Thanks for the tips! I'm envious of your berries. We planted a small blueberry bush a couple years ago but it's still not producing much. Now I wish we would've planted several more.

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  9. These are in your garden? I'd love to see a photo -- we've been debating whether or not we could fit a brambling berry bush in our little yard :)

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  10. I LOVE raspberries! and they must taste all the better given those special memories. Go see Veggiegirl for a great looking raspberry idea.

    Cheers, Girlfriend! :)

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  11. Grandmothers really are the best aren't they? You've captured and shared an awesome memory of yours! I love your tip about hunkering down and shifting leaves about to find the best berries-it's so true! I remember berry picking last summer, and the people around me gave up so easily and complained that there were no berries. My boyfriend and I were squatting in front of raspberry bushes picking to our heart's content! We walked away with so many berries, and past those complainers. So much fun. Thanks for sharing your tips.

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  12. I remember picking blackberries with my great-aunt in BC, I loved it, I didn't even mind the spiders (which were everywhere and big!). There's something so fun and juicy about picking your own berries!

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  13. I love raspberries! We used to have a blackberry bush outside my old house and it was always so much fun picking + eating + baking them!

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  14. That's a pretty good haul of raspberries and they're so perfectly ripe and red! I have one raspberry bush at home, and it's been spreading well for a couple of years. The problem is that my dogs steal every ripe raspberry before I can get to it!

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  15. ...and, it occurs to me that raspberries aren't properly vegan.

    Have you ever left them out after picking them or washed them and spread them to drain? Do a zillion trillion tiny spiders and other crawlies come out of the berries or is that just the berries I pick here in the Bay Area?

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