Raspberries are a soft fruit made of individual drupelets clustered together and filled with teensy bursts of sweet flavor. Unlike some fruits, they don’t continue to ripen after being picked. They only last for a few days before beginning to spoil, which allows them to command a high price on supermarket shelves.
I’ve been lucky enough to have access to a robust raspberry patch for most of the last 30-plus years. One house we lived in had an overgrown patch about the size of one parking space. No rows, no supports, just a jungle of canes and grass and weeds.
In early spring I’d go through with a pair of pruners and cut down the previous year’s dead wood (raspberry canes fruit the second year, then die). I’d also trim off the new growth at about chest height for easier picking.
As the raspberries began to ripen in mid-July, I’d crawl through on my hands and knees, ripping out grass and weeds by the handful, leaving them on the ground. This gave the berries air and me some sort of (wending) path through the patch. In the five years we lived in that house, we’d get about 12-15 gallons of raspberries every year.
Raspberries like a lot of water as they’re fruiting. A soaker hose works better than a sprinkling system. You don’t want the berries themselves wet as they turn mushy. You just want the canes to be able to pull up enough moisture for large, lush berries.
While the season is in progress, about 2-3 weeks, you need to pick every other day as the canes will stop producing if the old berries are allowed to remain. Berries are ripe enough to pick if they come off easily in your hand, leaving the cone behind. If they don’t pluck easily, leave them for the next picking. Make sure to reach in from underneath to find hidden berries.
My current patch is mostly ever-bearing berries of several varieties. This means I’ll get a decent run from mid-July to the first week of August or so, then nothing until about mid-September, when I get another run, albeit smaller, until frost. This can be anywhere from a week to a month of additional berry picking here in southeastern BC, Canada.
What do I do with so many berries? While they’re fresh, I love them with homemade granola and vanilla yogurt (I usually buy or make plain yogurt and add some honey and vanilla). We also enjoy raspberry shortcakes.
I freeze most of the berries, though. These I’ll crumble into whole-grain pancakes (à la blueberries), add them to smoothies, and make a few Raspberry Chocolate Chip Coffee Cakes over the winter.
Once I’ve set aside a gallon Ziploc or two for those uses, I usually make Raspberry Vinegar out of the rest. We drink a lot of this refreshing punch-like beverage all summer instead of the pop/soda or powdered iced tea we used to buy. Yep, it’s sweetened, but you control how much goes in.
This video shows how I make a small amount, but I usually make a much larger batch in a 5-gallon bucket (or two) and can it into quart jars to store for the next summer.
Ah, yes. Because I love raspberries so much–as well as the Raspberry Vinegar I make from it–it seemed apropos to put both in my newest release, Raspberries and Vinegar.
Sweet like Raspberries. Tart like Vinegar
Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.
Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can’t handle? And surely there’s something sweet beneath all that tart.
Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.
Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her stories. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, released in August, 2013.
She also blogs at http://towriteastory.com, where she offers a free course via email on planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing fiction.