2018-07-26 / From The Garden

Perfection...Raspberry Selection

By Cynthia Gibson

I wait for this month all year, because it’s when my summer raspberry crop is in. The good news is there will be a second crop, which is always larger, beginning at the end of August and early September.

I grow four varieties of raspberry. Two have summer and fall crops, and two have only a summer crop. Growing raspberries is having your cake and eating it, too. This elegant berry, with its tart, tangy, sweet flavor, is so special. The berry is the centerpiece of many a fancy dessert, and also a fantastic summer sorbet.

The varieties in my raspberry beds grow very well in Rhode Island, especially by the sea. There are so few wild raspberries left that it’s best to start your own patch or bed and have the taste of a real raspberry in your backyard.

Store-bought raspberries, which are bland, just do not cut it during the summer. The only way you will taste any raspberry flavor is to puree them. Why bother buying those plastic boxed berries when you can grow your own and have the entire berry burst with flavor with your first bite?

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. The no-fail red raspberries to plant are called “Caroline.” This variety has two crops, one in July and one at the end of August or in early September. Caroline has plump, full-sized berries that make the best jam, sorbet, ice cream or Vacherin, a meringue dessert, layered with fresh berries.

If yellow raspberries intrigue you, go for “Kiwi Gold” or “Anne.” Both also have two crops. Yellow or golden raspberries have a hint of honey flavor, making them unique. The Kiwi Gold berry is large, and when very ripe it turns from pale yellow to yellow-orange. They are beautiful as well as tasty.

Should you like the more exotic black raspberry, you have two choices, “Jewel” and “Bristol.” Black raspberries have a taste unto themselves. They do not have the flavor of the pure red raspberry. Instead, the flavor has a slight taste of blackberry.

Jewel and Bristol were developed from wild black raspberries known as “Black Caps” or “Scotch Caps.” These berries were native to America and our Native Americans not only ate them and cooked with them, they used the deep purple-black raspberry for dye. It is a beautiful round berry, not oval, like the yellow or red raspberry, and grows in clusters. All raspberries are delicious, but black raspberries are milder, and unfortunately only have one crop per summer. The picking time is July.

Black raspberries have the tiniest thorns, and it’s best to wait until they are black and ripe before harvesting. They will fall off the core easily, instead of your getting a needle prick with each pick!

I grow an obscure pink raspberry called “Yuki.” The size of the berry is very large and, unlike most raspberries, they are uniform in size. Yuki has the distinct raspberry flavor, but it is on the tart side. Like most fruits, it takes a few years before they produce good-sized berries.

For the simplest of summer desserts, there is nothing prettier than a scoop of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with freshly picked raspberries of different colors. Eating them without the ice cream is just as good.

Collecting the summer crop in baggies and placing them in the freezer until the fall crop begins is a great way to get a head start on hoarding your raspberries for making jam in the fall. The fall crop will produce two to three times the number of berries than the early summer crop.

Raspberry plants and shrubs grow to five feet tall, and they have thorns that love full sun and a bit of afternoon shade. Five plants will provide enough raspberries for one person. This might sound excessive, but the bush will only produce two quarts a summer. It is best to plant more than one variety for excellent pollination.

It takes four cups of raspberries to make four to six cups of jam. The amounts differ depending upon how much sugar you add to your recipe. It is so simple to make because there are only two ingredients for making jam, sugar and berries. Raspberries sweeten easily with sugar and the usual recipe is equal parts sugar to raspberries. I hold back a cup of sugar, which will bring out the flavor of this magnificent berry. No pectin is necessary, as raspberries have plenty. So, get out there and start picking!

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