Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Black Raspberry Rhapsody

I started picking black raspberries on July 6th. I put a cup of them into a jar with apple cider vinegar. I filled the jar with the next picking and then began a jar of black raspberry liquor.

Every day or so I pick more black raspberries. Sometimes I eat them out of hand or over granola or in a shortcake (my husband loves them in a shortcake). I asked my neighbors if I could pick theirs and they said yes. Their patch is the progenitor of mine. Canes leaned over the fence between us. When they struck earth on my side, they started a new plant. Up in the kitchen garden last year I had ten tomato plants and at the end of the summer I had ten black raspberry plants started in amongst them. I moved them to the main garden to keep company with the others that had come over the fence.

A cup or two of black raspberries can enhance many things besides vinegar and vodka. I made some mango black raspberry sauce for winter waffles. I added some to my rumtopf. I made a fruit cocktail with mangoes, white nectarines, black raspberries and a navel orange. I kept one picking in the fridge and with the next picking I had enough to make 4 jars of black raspberry jam.

When I was a child, my favorite ice cream was black raspberry. Crystal Springs Dairy's soft ice cream stand had it on alternate Thursdays in the summer and I ate it all summer long.

I don't have the same love affair with red raspberries. They don't have the depth of flavor, the depth of colour, that black raspberries impart to things. I did have access to a wonderful red raspberry patch in Nova Scotia. They would start to produce the week before my son's birthday at the end of July and loved having red raspberry shortcake as his birthday cake. I even got enough raspberries for a gallon or two of wine.

I started a red raspberry patch here in southern Ontario. My neighbor gave me some canes. But they're not the best. They heartily put energy into propagating by root extensions, but produce few seeds (and the berries that surround them). This summer they showed hearty blossoms, but most produced fruit of maybe three seeds or less. I cut them all down, bundled them up as green waste. Soon I'll have all the roots dug up. I left the red raspberries that are producing fruit. They can spread if they want -- but they'll have to compete with the black raspberries I'll be putting in.

The harvest is noticeably diminishing in the black raspberry patch. But today I noticed a few new canes had blossoms on them. They did that last year too. And in another month I'll have another black raspberry harvest...

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