It is time once again for my annual raspberry post. You see, early June is my time to contemplate all things raspberry. Why now? What’s stopping me from meditating on the delights of baked and fresh raspberry dishes in, say, April when spring starts, or July when everyone is making juicy fruit crisps? The answer is simple really: raspberries are actually in season now. Not in April or July. Now. Sure you can buy raspberries all year long; and if you’re a commercial grower I’m sure you can extend the season from early spring to late summer or even fall. But if you are a home gardener, this is your raspberry moment.
One thing to know about growing your own raspberries is that you can pretty much forget about the vines for most of the year. In my backyard, they sit alongside a fence near the barbecue. Throughout the summer they pretty much act as a green foliage background to cover up the fence. When summer is done, their leaves change color a bit and then start to fall, memories of their luscious fruit barely concealed by the apples that are ripening heavily above them. By the time winter arrives, I’m focused on pruning, cutting back dead wooden stalks to make room for younger shoots that will emerge soon, the skeletons of old flower buds that once housed berries now dry and sitting vacant. When spring arrives I am struck with just how lovely the small white flower buds are, peaking out of the verdant green leaves that are new and growing toward the sky. I’m always amazed at just how tall those vines then become in the span of a month or two, maturing and getting leggy like a young teenager until they reach the lower limbs of my apple tree. And then just when I’m getting ready for summer, the berries appear. It’s clandestine at first, with only a few hiding under lower leaves, their rich raspberry red peeking out. Excited and anxious to taste them, my family stands right out amidst the vines, eating as we pick, with none making their way into the house. Each day more berries ripen, until we are overwhelmed with them a week later, the vines literally drooping, laden with fruit.
It seem miraculous just how big my patch has become, and numerous the berries. After all, I planted only one lone vine in a gallon pot six years ago. Since that time, my patch has grown from a small one-foot area to 10 feet, now spanning half my side yard. Even better is that these vines are thornless, so I can let my kids romp through them on berry-picking missions without worrying about scratched arms or poked faces.