Few foods say summer like fresh-picked berries. Sweet, jewel-like raspberries first appear in backyards and fields beginning in late May, growing on prickly bramble bushes. Each berry is composed of many connecting druplets (individual sections of fruit, each with its own seed), surrounding a hollow, central core.
Some raspberries are native to North America. When the early settlers landed on the eastern seaboard of North America, they found numerous wild berries flourishing in the cool climate. Native Americans taught them how to preserve the berries through sun-drying, and berries — high in vitamins and minerals — became an important part of the colonists' diet.
There are three main varieties of commercially cultivated raspberries: red, black and golden. Red raspberries, which are actually a relative of the rose, are the most common; their peak season runs from June to early September, and they’re also a popular winter import from South America. Black raspberries (sometimes called blackcaps) are native to North America; they’re common in the eastern US and Canada, and they’re characterized by small, round berries with numerous seeds and a deep purple-black color. The berries often have a white "bloom" on the exterior of the fruit, which isn’t mold. Not as sweet as red or golden raspberries, blackcaps are excellent for jam and sauces. Golden raspberries are relative newcomers and have a extremely short season; they’re soft and juicy with a sweet, perfumy flavor reminiscent of apricots. They’re best eaten fresh.
How to select and store raspberries
No matter what the color or variety, raspberries are extremely delicate and need to be handled gently. Look for raspberries that are plump and dry, not flattened or broken. It's a good idea to examine the bottom of the container, too, to check for dampness or stains. Berries that have started to ooze may indicate decay, damage or advanced age. If you see any signs of mold, choose another container.
Eat your raspberries within a day or two of purchase. At home, remove the berries from their container and carefully check the fruit. Discard any crushed or moldy berries; mold spreads very quickly and will spoil the lot. If there’s any moisture on the fruit, blot the berries gently with paper towels; moisture also hastens decay.
Fortunately, raspberries freeze well. If you're lucky enough have a berry patch or access to a U-pick field, you can enjoy your bounty all year long. Spread the berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking tray lined with wax or parchment paper, making sure they don’t touch each other, and then freeze until solid. Once frozen, transfer the berries to freezer bags or containers. Frozen raspberries don’t need to be thawed before use in recipes.
Tips for using raspberries
For best results, spread raspberries in a single layer on a plate or tray lined with paper towels, and if you don't plan to use them within a few hours, put them in the refrigerator. Although raspberries are rarely dirty, if you must wash them, do so carefully to avoid ruining their texture and flavor. Rinse gently under a spray of cool water, then spread the berries onto paper towels to dry.
Ripe raspberries have such a wonderful, intense flavor that purists would surely agree they’re best eaten on their own, perhaps with a dollop of cream — but they’ve long played a starring role in a multitude of desserts, jams and fruit salads. Looking beyond the obvious, they also make a wonderful addition to beverages, green salads and dressings. Their slightly tart, acidic flavor complements the richness of game meats, where they can be used in marinades or sauces.
Why choose organic raspberries?
Raspberries are #21 on the Environmental Working Group's “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” a list of produce that carries the most pesticide residues when grown conventionally. So choosing organic raspberries makes good sense — especially for children, whose growing bodies are so much more susceptible to environmental chemical exposures than adults’.
Choose organic whenever you can to help keep the residues of conventional agricultural pesticides and fertilizers out of your food. Organic produce is grown without toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using sustainable farming methods that protect the environment and help keep pesticides out of our soil, air, water and food supply. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think it tastes better, too!