It's official. Wild black raspberry season is on. I always hear
about black raspberry season from the kids- they watch the canes
like hawks and call out in triumph as the first berry blackens.
For several days later they pluck the precious fruits and the
whole family shares in eating them. Small handfuls at a time,
doled the way kids like things doled out the best- very, very
Then come more. And more. And finally, I am ready to get my
basket and get on with the serious picking. I am thinking pies
first and foremost. Specifically my rhubarb and black raspberry
pie which is tart and sweet and very juicy. Secondly, I am
thinking raspberry jam, and my favorite raspberry jam with
pears. Then I am thinking of bags in the freezer, a measure of
my time and devotion spent in the field, pulling each tiny
morsel of pleasure into my container until something else
demands my attention. Because really for me, I have a ton and
know tons of places to pick, its quite a common plant, and so my
measure of berries put up directly parallels the time.
I can take and devote to the task of picking. And sometimes it
beautiful and the birds are chittering and the wind is blowing
ever so slightly and I am just full of berry picking bliss out
there on the edge of my lawn and winding down to the woods.....
And sometimes I am cussing at the mosquito's and being snagged
up to heck by the prickers, all while the hot sun is beating
down with fierce intensity in July, and I am sweating my butt
off.... just depends really, on the day and the way things are
rolling......so my bags in the freezer are a reflection of my
experience that year. I will say this though. Those black
raspberries are worth it, they really are.
Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) is much more common in the
wild than red raspberry, the one we often find in the stores or
at farmers markets. The berries love to grow in clearings in the
woods, or on the edges of woods, and love moist soil- you will
find them on thin canes with prickers that often bend back to
the ground and take root at the tip, which makes them hard as
heck to wade through to collect these precious, yummy berries.
The leaves are compound with usually three leaflets and when you
flip a leaf over they are downy whiter underneath. The berries
are ready when they turn a dark purple/black, and they release
easily from their central cone when you pull them off. In this
way, you can distinguish them from blackberries which keep this
The raspberry leaf itself makes a fabulous infusion or tea. Its
full of calcium and vitamins, and works to nourish, tone and
relax the entire pelvic region. I have seen it ease morning
sickness in women with cases that are not severe.
The root of black raspberry is my favorite remedy for the goats
when they have the runs. Which doesn't happen often except and
when it does, it's really okay for a bit, but I don't like to
see it go longer than a day. I will just pound this root
down, pour water over it and simmer it for a good hour or two
and then strain, and put it in once of those big huge syringes
sans needle and squirt it down their throat. Their poops are
normal in no time flat.
So. Anyway. Now I have to go from poop to berries? Lovely.
So, yeah, the berries are the highlight of the plant- you can do
anything with them that you would a commercial raspberry. Here
are a couple of recipes and ideas to get you started:
First of all, when in doubt and when you come into a decent
quantity of berries, remember you can easily just put them in
quart bags and set them in the freezer. I have plenty of these
and other wild berry bags and it allows for more creativity come
winter as how I will cook or use them. I always have more time
for this sort of thing when there is a foot of snow on the
Then you can pull them out for black raspberry pancakes, or make
a syrup with them for waffles (cornmeal waffles are really good
with black raspberry syrup and berries) you can put them in your
yogurt, you can make muffins, you can make upside down raspberry
cake, stick them in the kids or your oatmeal, really, just
Fresh, I like them with a splash of goat cream and a tiny
drizzle of honey. They are good in ice cream also, though we
like a black raspberry syrup over the ice cream even better.
They are also good in salads, on the fresh garden greens with a
balsamic dressing. Sometimes I will mush them up in soft goat
cheese and spread that on homemade bagels. That's really good.
Whiz them up with yogurt and freeze for Popsicles, the kids love
You can even make a wild black raspberry vinegar by infusing a
couple cups of berries in a quart of vinegar. Don't forget to
line your lid with wax paper b/c the vinegar will corrode the
You can dry them, just as they are and then use them in granola,
and I have made chocolate chunk cookies with dried raspberries
and that was a hit. They dry pretty quickly in the dehydrator so
watch them after 4 or so hours.
This is a favorite jam of mine. Its nice because it contains
much less sugar than standard jam but still tastes sweet and
yummy. You can take and use frozen raspberries when the pears
Pear and raspberry jam
11 or 12 cups of peeled chopped pears (about six pounds)
2 cups black raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Combine first three ingredients. Bring to boil and then simmer
until thick (about two hours) add lemon juice, stir and simmer,
and then put in pint jars and boil for 10 minutes.
Lemon juice is important in recipes that do not use pectin. It
adds acid but also a nice flavor highlight.
And here is a really juicy dark red-purple pie that is one of my
favorite pie recipes. I love fruits that follow each other in
season to be melded into a pie, just like the season for one
fruit blends into another. I made it for the last herbal class
this Sunday. Since rhubarb season has just ended, you most
likely have bags chopped in the freezer, and paired with black
raspberry you can make a delicious pie that is sweet and tart
and just dripping with the season.
Black raspberry and rhubarb pie
You will need a top and bottom crust
2 1/2 cups black raspberries
2 12- 3 cups rhubarb
Toss with 3/4 to 1 cup sugar, 3 tbs cornstarch, 1 tbs lemon
juice. Pour in your bottom crust. Dot with butter. Weave a
lattice crust over the top, and crimp the edges. Take your
cookie cut outs and cut out a couple of hearts or stars and put
a few over the lattice top for decoration. Brush with a tbs of
cream and an egg yolk that has been whipped. Sprinkle with sugar
and then bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and another 20-30
minutes at 350. It should be bubbly before you take it out.
So, any way you enjoy them, get some overalls, a long shirt and
a sunhat and spend an afternoon picking in the black raspberry
patches lining the woods.....
That is where you will find me this week!