2016-07-21 / From The Garden

Raspberries Beat the Summer Heat

By Cynthia Gibson

Raspberries, the small red berries that look like frosted jewels, are among the most celebrated fruits and found in the most elegant desserts.

Now is the time to pick them, and the pick-your-own farms are ready. They will provide containers that are included in the price of picking, or you can bring your own. Sealable freezer bags work well; once home you can pop them right into the freezer or rinse with cold water and enjoy. A caveat: Never pat raspberries dry, and if left in water they will start absorbing the liquid, diminishing their taste.

There are three types of raspberries: red, black and yellow. Red raspberries, depending on the variety, have two different seasons – summer and fall. The summer raspberries are ready to pick now; in September other varieties produce a huge crop larger than the summer yield. The finest of the fall crop is Caroline. It has the truest raspberry flavor imaginable.

Black raspberries grow in clusters and not on a small stem like their red cousins. They are not quite as flavorful as the tangy, pungent red version, but have a subtle taste that is divine. Jewel and Bristol are the two black raspberries I recommend for backyard growing.

The yellow raspberry has a flavor that is a blend of true raspberry mixed with honey. Kiwi-Gold and Anne are the two best yellow varieties.

Raspberries are perishable. They are considered a soft fruit, and will only stay plump and tasty in the fridge for about two days. After that, a grayish-furry mold is likely to form. Toss out the furry berries and eat the rest immediately.

A bit of background from the Food History website: The first people known to have cultivated raspberries were the ancient Greeks. The seeds were found in Roman forts and in ancient Turkey as well. Pliny wrote that they called the raspberry “idaues” because it grew thickly on the slopes of Mount Ida. The first recorded harvest was from Mount Ida in A.D. 45.

Over time, seeds and berries traveled throughout Europe via birds and humans. During the Middle Ages they were used as a medicine, for making wine, and for simple enjoyment.

The raspberry has been grown in the United States since the early 1800s. Cultivation and hybridization followed quickly due to the popularity of the red berry.

The best berries are eaten fresh, pureed or individually. Popping freshly-picked raspberries into your mouth and eating them au natural is one of the classic tastes of summer. In addition to making your own homemade raspberry sorbet or ice cream, there is a plethora of magnificent desserts to tempt the palates of family and friends.

To cool off on these hot summer days, see the recipe above for the best raspberry cooler on the planet.

Gardener’s Tip:

To properly freeze raspberries, place them separately on a cookie sheet, giving each berry its space. They will freeze within a half-hour and can then be placed in freezer bags. This method means they will stay separated, a great help for decorative desserts. Freezing them as a bag will give you a frozen block of berries – perfect if you are using a recipe calling for puree.

Raspberry Cooler

Serves 8

1/4 cup sugar
1 cup bottled water
10 oz. fresh raspberries
1 6-oz. can of frozen limeade
2 cups of club soda, chilled
Garnish with freshly picked mint
leaves (optional)

Combine the sugar and water in a medium-sized sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil for about two minutes. Let the mixture cool. Add the raspberries and limeade. Pour the mixture into a blender and puree. Place mixture into a very large bowl or punch bowl and slowly add the chilled club soda. Have glasses ready filled with ice. Ladle the raspberry cooler and garnish with fresh mint.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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