Exploring Raspberries: Facts, Folklore, and Fun Recipes for the Favorite Fruit of Summer
It Began Centuries Ago
In the 1st century B.C., they clambered over the foothills of Troy. Their march was relentless, and they conquered without bloodshed. They crept silently, from empire to empire, stretching across Asia to the northern-most hills of England.
Finally, the beast was tamed by Edward the 1st, who recognized their value and encouraged the domestication of the brambles. In time, cultivars were shipped to the New World, and in 1737 the first crossbreed of a raspberry and a wild blackberry was sold by William Price. But that was not the berry that we know and love today. The creation of that raspberry was the work of another man.
He Had a Vision
- He was born on a farm in rural Lancaster, Massachusetts,
- had only a high school education,
- and was the 13th of 18 children.
Who could have imagined that a young man of such simple means, with no university education, would be heralded as a pioneer in agricultural science, the developer of over 800 plant varieties?
The man was Luther Burbank.
He studied berry species more than any other person in his field and developed 10 commercial varieties of berries; the first was the 1893 Eureka Raspberry.
The Story of the Disappearing Raspberries
There is a story in Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul about “Luther Burbank and the Disappearing Raspberries.” As the story is told the author, Stuart Vincent grew up in Santa Rosa, California in a home surrounded by flower and vegetable gardens, and (oddly) “two ten-foot rows of posts and wires.” One would think those the perfect spot in which to grow raspberries, but in the author’s memory, those rows were always bare.
One afternoon, years and decades away from that childhood scene, Stuart asked his sister Emily, ten years his senior, about her memories of that garden and she shared with him a secret that he would not/could not reveal as long as she was alive. He kept that promise. Emily is now gone, and so he told her story of why his father never grew raspberries in those perfectly-structured rows.
“Do you remember the raspberry patch, just beyond the apple trees? The poles and wires were there for raspberries, but Dad stopped growing them. Mr. Burbank gave him some to try. I remember Dad saying that Mr. Burbank wanted some planted in different soil than he had. I was just a kid, so I didn’t give the berries another thought—until the day Dad brought in the first bowl. I fell in love with them. Every chance I got I gobbled them up. Each day I’d eat all the ripe ones. When there weren’t any rope ones left, I’d eat the almost-ripe ones too. This went on for several seasons. Then one day I saw Daddy digging up the raspberries, hauling them to the burning heap. I said ‘Dad, what are you doing?’ He answered, ‘They just don’t give berries. Lots of bloom, lots of green berries, but for some reason they don’t hang. Something in the soil I guess.’”
- The raspberry is a member of the rose family.
- A raspberry is made up of many tiny bead-like fruits called "drupelets" clustered around a core. Each drupelet contains one seed, and an average raspberry has 100 to 120 seeds.
- During the Middle Ages, the juice was used as a red stain for artwork
- George Washington grew more than 40 different varieties at his Mount Vernon home.
- Washington State is the top commercial producer, with more than 70 million tons annually.
- They prefer mild cool climates but can grow as far north as the Arctic Circle and even in tropical regions.
- One cup of raspberries has 60.28 calories.
- Raspberries rank in the top 10 antioxidant-high fruits and vegetables
There are millions of recipes on the internet for Best Raspberry (you name it)--pie, muffins, pancakes, smoothies, etc. We won't be looking at those. Instead, I have assembled for you some savory uses of our favorite red berry.
Raspberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken with Toasted Almonds
Amy Casey is a personal chef and food columnist. She creates flavorful dishes that are beautiful enough to stun company, yet simple enough for even the novice cook to pull off with style such as this sauteed chicken flavored with raspberry preserves and balsamic, and then garnished with fresh berries.
Raspberry Brie Dessert Pizza
Here's a dessert that is a bit more on the savory side. Brie cheese is funky and creamy (not too sweet), balsamic is bright and tangy, the candied pecans add contrasting sweetness and crunch, fresh berries are tart pops of color, and piny rosemary is the perfect end-note.
Fat-Free Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
With just a few fresh ingredients and a food processor or blender, you can make your own raspberry vinaigrette. Barry (RockRecipes) shows how in this link to his blog. I've featured a number of his recipes in my articles which are always easy, fun, and affordable.
Chicken and raspberries are such perfect companions. In this recipe by Lea Ann (HighlandsRanchFoodie) low-fat chicken breast cutlets are floured and quickly sauteed until they are golden brown but still moist and juicy. Chicken has such a mild flavor; it's the perfect platform for this vibrant sauce of raspberry vinegar and fresh or frozen raspberries.
Pork is commonly paired with fruit. The list of "go-withs" is long—apples, apricots, cranberries, currants, dried cherries, dried figs, mangoes, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, quince, and strawberries. Let's add one more; raspberries, especially when blended with cumin, mustard, and garlic create a sweet-tangy-savory chutney-like sauce that you will love. Thanks to Krissy Allori (SelfProclaimedFoodie) for this innovative recipe.
Whiskey Raspberry Glazed Duck Breasts
I have a problem with duck. I know that according to the experts it should be cooked so that it is still pink inside. That totally goes against my "poultry must be cooked until there is no pink flesh". So I've not attempted this dish, and honestly never will. But I present it here for those of you who appreciate and enjoy duck. Bon Appetit.
Salmon With Wild Mushrooms and Berries
In 1993 Bon Appetit magazine published a recipe entitled “Salmon Filets with Wild Mushroom Ragout”. It was good, really good, but I felt that it could be made even better. Salmon and wild mushrooms are both Pacific Northwest natives (like me), and so are hazelnuts and our bounty of wild berries. Why not add those too, so here’s what I created for my family.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 5 shallots, minced
- 18 ounces mixed mushrooms (such as oyster, chanterelle, or crimini)
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 6 6-to 8-ounce salmon fillets
- Fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3/4 cup fresh wild berries (such as raspberry, blackberry, salmonberry, huckleberry)
- 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté 2 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium-high. Add mushrooms; sauté until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.
- Add broth and wine; boil until liquids are syrupy and almost evaporated, about 20 minutes.
- Add cream to mushrooms; boil until thickened, about 1 minute. Mix in chopped rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat broiler. Arrange salmon skin side down on broiler pan.
- Brush with lemon juice, then butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Broil until just cooked through, without turning, about 6 minutes.
- Transfer to plates. Spoon mushroom sauce over. Garnish with berries and hazelnuts.
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© 2018 Linda Lum