I once read a wonderful story about raspberry bushes. It was in the mid 90’s in one of those wonderful new agey books (or as my son calls them “That weird hippy stuff you read mother”) and the premise was that the blackberry or black raspberry has a collective consciousness that extends all around the world. To be honest with you, I loved the idea of that and I found it incredibly easy to believe. You see, at that time that I read that I was still living on our farm in Burton Ohio and blackberries and black raspberries were everywhere. They drove my husband crazy. because if you’ve ever had a berry bush as a best friend, then you know just how prolific they really are. Every year before they’d flower , Jim would go into the brambles with his gloves and his clippers and every year he’d find more and more of them. Fortunately, when they began to flower, he’d have to leave them alone. Raspberries and Blackberries are a major source of sweet nectar for the honeybees. He’s quite allergic, so if he missed a few the berries got their chance! Berry bushes are a bit like willow trees and If you drop just one clipping, within weeks it will have taken root and begun to spread. I love to imagine that they are all entwining their tendrils in the earth underfoot and that they are all connected just like my little book said.
By the time that we moved 21 years later, there were black raspberries and blackberries everywhere and to my absolute delight they’d become completely uncontrollable. They didn’t all ripen at the same times and they were all amazing. We had our favorite patches but Alex and his best friend Jessica still swear by the ones that grew down by our pond. They didn’t start out down there , they came from some of the first clippings that my husband tossed over the fence as far away from the garden as he could find. Eventually my husband gave up and just forgot about trying to tame them. He’d settle for just trimming them a bit and then he’d join in the fun eating handful after handful. Those berries were incredibly sweet, juicy and delicious which the most sumptuous sensual scent. They were actually the size of quarters.
When they were little, Alex and his friends Tyler and Jessica used to spend hours eating their way around the brambles. They’d come running up with handfuls of the warm juicy berries for me and I loved them so much for the taste of course but more for the pleasure of knowing that these children that I adored were having an early experience of sustainability. We’d share them and then they’d go running off for more. I’d send them home covered in purple juice, thankfully their mothers forgave me! These are some of the best memories of my life. I made cobblers, pies and ice cream out of them and if you’ve never had a real black raspberry margarita then you don’t know what you’re missing. For some reason, tequila marries well with black raspberries, mint and a bit of sugar. Black Raspberries and meyer lemon juice mixed with sugar, branch water and cracked ice made a delicious and refreshing lemonade that is absolutely delicious and lovely to look at too!
Red and Black Raspberries marry well with many different types of food, but the most impressively with pork and wild game. There’s something about the sweet yet acidic quality of the berries that cuts right through the fattiness of duck or goose and venison is never more luscious than when it’s glazed with a sauce of black raspberries , elderberries and red wine. I love to throw them into salads, combining them with raw pecans, red onions and mixed greens. If you need a bit of protein, sliced grilled chicken or duck breast will round out the flavors as will a sprinkling of fresh goat cheese which marries beautifully with the tanginess of the fresh berries. A simple vinaigrette made with olive oil, herbs and a light red wine will dress this salad perfectly.
My first experience of the black raspberry as a medicinal tonic came when I was a child and I developed a serious tummy ache one day after eating too many pieces of very greasy pepperoni pizza. Instead of going for the antacid in the cupboard, my mother vey wisely took out the bottle of raspberry cordial that she kept in her medicine cabinet and poured a nice bit of it into a cup of hot water. She gave it to me to sip and it has been my favorite stomach tonic ever since. Raspberry leaf tea has always been one of the midwives best allies from conception to birth indeed it is said that drinking a tisane of clover and raspberry leaves can help promote fertility in women and virility in men! Raspberry leaves contain vast amounts of natural and easily assimilated vitamin C, B, A, E, Calcium and iron. A cup of raspberry tea made with the a bit of mint , raspberry fruit, dried nettles and alfalfa and the leaves helped ease my morning sickness and the well known abilities of that same tea to tone and strengthen the uterine muscles has helped prevent many a miscarriage over the centuries and helps with the bleeding and cleansing that all of our bodies go through after childbirth, allowing them to return quickly to their pre -pregnancy suppleness.
One word of caution though. If you are breast feeding, you may find that drinking the tea can either help the production of your breast milk or hinder it. If you fall into the latter category, try my favorite remedy instead. Two days after I gave birth to my son, Jim walked into the house carrying a case of really wonderful stout with instructions from his mother to have me drink one of them every afternoon at about 4:00 pm. There was much native wisdom in this prescription and when I asked my own mother about it she just laughed and said that my MIL was absolutely correct and to do as she instructed . Drinking that one beer became such a relaxing part of my day and my breast milk was abundant. Another bonus was that Alex slept through the night before he was six weeks old probably due to the hops that it was laced with! Fruity Raspberry Lambic beer from Belgium is incredibly refreshing and wonderfully relaxing and would be a sweet and perfect substitution for someone who generally doesn't enjoy the bitter taste of beer.
It’s been 8 year now since we sold our farm and I miss those black raspberries every summer. I have been an apartment dweller all of this time but this spring we are in the process of purchasing a home once again. We have found a lovely place in a wonderful city called Cleveland Heights, with a huge front porch and gardens that wrap around the whole lot. It has apple trees and herb beds and there are daffodils and crocuses coming up everywhere. But, it doesn’t have any black raspberries so come the "Merry Month of May", I will be making the drive out to Burton to ask for a few of the canes from the patch by the pond so that I can again have some of my very own. My poor husband!
Now buzz over to Roxana Villa's Illuminated Journal to read more about the luscious raspberry and its wonderful uses in fragrance!
Lambic Beer photograph courtesy of : http://atattooedtale.wordpress.com
Painting of raspberries courtesy of :http://www.urbanartantiques.com