July 17, 2009
Remember these bowls? The kiddos made them at a local potter's studio way back in March. They are beloved pieces of functional art and their current life's purpose is to hold our backyard berries.
Backyard raspberries are my favorite summer berry, with apologies to the strawberries (recently picked) and wild Maine blueberries (bought those today from a new co-operative I'm joining) sitting in my freezer. It's true I love every berry in i's season. And when I'm picking a sun-riped August blueberry or eating a burst of early summer strawberry goodness I sometimes forget my affinity, my strong attachment really, for the raspberry.
But then I spend an hour in my raspberry patch; taking photos, picking and eating (squishing Japanese beetles too) and I remember. One taste of these warm, tart and seedy berries and the memories come rushing back.
Where I grew up strawberries were picked at a u-pick farm, all through the summer. Alberta doesn't get the humidity and heat that kills the berries here by mid July. So strawberries were a summer long affair. And blueberries... we didn't have them where I grew up, we had Saskatoon berries, kind of like blueberries but kind of not.
But raspberries... those were picked at my grandparents farm. We'd drive out during the day or maybe an evening. Along the gravel road, kicking up summer dust behind us. The adults would attach a gallon ice cream bucket, the kind of preservative loaded ice cream none of us would be caught dead eating now, around their waists with a belt and they'd pick. And pick.
Us kids? We'd pick to eat, run around the farm, go home tired and raspberry juice stained. And of course we'd eat the raspberry jam all winter that mom made during the summer months.
When my grandparents moved off the farm my aunt and uncle took over the fields and the raspberry patch. Grandma and Grandpa bought a house in town with a patch of raspberries already growing.
I grew up and moved away but I always knew when we bought a home I wanted raspberries in my own backyard. Raspberries were one of the first things I planted the year after we moved to our house, 4 years ago this month. After a a brief stint by the compost corner they were moved to their current and permanent home. This year's harvest is the best yet.
What about my grandparent's raspberries? As far as I know the patch is still there, this is me picking them in July 2006, the last time we visited Alberta during the summer. My grandmother is passed away and my grandfather now shares that same "house in town" with another aunt and uncle.
I don't have my grandmother anymore and live a long ways from where I grew up but I have my backyard raspberries. And spending a sunny July morning in my small patch takes me back to my childhood, back to my grandparent's farm, raspberries served with cream on the shady deck, my mother's jam on the pantry shelf.
A warm summer raspberry - picked from my own garden, like no other fruit tastes like love. The love of my mother and my grandmother: in the patch, heads down, backs bent over, arms scratched, ice cream buckets around their waists.
You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.
If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.