Raspberry love

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.

summer breakfast

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.

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  • Shannon

    Shannon on July 17, 2009, 10:30 a.m.

    What a beautiful post. I, too, am a lover of the raspberry. It is my favorite for jam and I even like the quirkiness of the seeds mixed in.

    It's amazing how tied food is to our past and our loves.

    Thanks you for contributing this to food roots. It was lovely.

    Shannon's last blog post... Food Roots - July 16: where does your food come from?


  • Sage

    Sage on July 17, 2009, 11:36 a.m.

    Lovely. I wonder if this means there will be local raspberries at the co op this weekend. I hope so!

    My grandmother had a raspeberry patch too, and some of my earliest memories are of the two of us picking them for breakfast.

    We had wild black raspberries at my home growing up. Not enough to actually make anything thing - we put our meager pickings in coffee cans, sprinkled sugar on them, and put them in fridge. When they were cold we'd eat them with a spoon - the cans added a little coffee flavor, the combination is suprisingly good! I was so excited to see wild canes growing along the side of our road when we moved here. Having a proper patch is on our (very long) list of things to do, as well.

    I think one of my favorite things about parenting is seeing my children doing the same things I did - and loved - as a child.


  • Becca

    Becca on July 17, 2009, 2:05 p.m.

    Yummy! Your first picture reminded me of picking rasberries with my cousins at my great-grandma's house in Maine. We would eat them with milk and a little sugar. I can still taste it in my mind. What a wonderful memory. Thank you!

    Becca's last blog post... Thank goodness he didn't try to get up on the roof


  • Karen

    Karen on July 17, 2009, 2:06 p.m.

    Thanks for your tribute to our family's love and relationship shared in a raspberry patch. For the record, the canes at Grandma's town house were already thriving when they moved there: a buying feature, no doubt.


  • Wayfaring Wanderer

    Wayfaring Wanderer on July 17, 2009, 4:43 p.m.

    We've got blackberries lining our driveway. They aren't ready yet, but soon. We were wondering, though, if we may have some raspberries as well. From what we've heard the wild raspberries here can look a lot like blackberries?!?!

    Yummy post :D

    Wayfaring Wanderer's last blog post... Subterranean Wonderland


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