vibrant reds in a sweet, sometimes unexpected, wild treat ::::
“Are you sure it’s okay to eat these?”
My friend Laura and I were walking in the woods with her sisters. Her family often liked to go camping on the weekends when we were pre-teens. Pop-up camper steadied with leveling jacks and rocks, mini port-o-potty set up inside, we spent much of our time in the campground convenient store buying $2 Tombstone pizzas made to order, trying to catch fish in the fishless Dawson Lake, and wandering around the wooded area near the campground. It was cloudy, a cool summer day. It was quiet, save for some nervous birds, a few crows, and the sound of Laura’s family plodding along behind us. A thicket of raspberry bushes appeared as we rounded a corner, billowing into the path. I knew exactly what they were and knew exactly what to do.
“Hey! Raspberries!” I exclaimed. “Let’s pick some!”
Laura was wary. Her diet mostly consisted of Banquet Chicken Nuggets and Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese, along with those Tombstone frozen pizzas. She scuffled her feet, breathing noisily, and she waited for her dad to come up behind us with her younger sisters. I was already way ahead, plucking the tender, ripe berries from their stems, eating them by the handful. Laura conferred with her father, who peered at me briefly, shrugged, and seemed to trust I knew what I was doing. My dad was a biologist, so certainly his children must know their plants, he nodded silently. One’s profession of Biology professor and researcher does not assume that his children are botantists. Or foragers. Or know how to live off the land by recognizing edible berries. I actually learned to identify wild raspberries and blackberries in the thorny fields near friends’ homes in England as a child, and more still with my family traveling in Germany, appropriately enough, while we were camping.
Laura studied me apprehensively. But she followed suit, as her sisters and father did, and picked some of the berries herself. I bet it was probably the first time she picked her own wild fruit, fresh and sweet, without need to wash the pesticides from it or to peel an extra-gummy PLU# sticker from a plastic container or waxy skin. The bushes we found yielded handfuls of fruit, not buckets; it was enough to share and enjoy as an inter-hike treat.
When I was recently faced with buckets of fruit, a boon of organic raspberries lining the pallets of Costco, I could do nothing but buy almost 5 pounds of them. We ate most of them plain, not even a drop of cream or sugar needed. The sorbet was an afterthought, but a good one. After everyone in the house became tired of the unadulterated berries, Grub pitching them across the kitchen, smearing the red all over the floor, the sorbet was presented as new way to serve the fruit. Even Peach finally relented — and admitted that “It’s really good, Mommy!” The perfectly sweet-tart sorbet went so fast, I made another batch soon after.
I have long since lost contact with Laura and I wonder if she remembers this time, when we were unencumbered with school, work, or adult responsibilities. I wonder if she still goes to that campground, setting up her creaky, metal camper like her dad did, with her family. I hope that she also takes walks with her children, crunching the dead leaves beneath her feet, teaching her children how to find raspberries and blackberries for a surprise snack.
Up next time: more of my neighbors’ bounty posts. There are still so many posts to come highlighting gifts from my neighbors’ gardens. On another note, Happy Veterans’ Day, America. Find some red, white, and blue berries to celebrate!
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 4½ cups fresh raspberries (about 18 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until completely chilled, about 3 hours (I did mine overnight).
- Divide the simple syrup,* raspberries, and lemon juice into 2 equal portions. In a food processor, process each batch on high speed until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Pour the raspberry mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer's directions. Put the sorbet into a plastic container and store in the freezer until needed. Yield: 1 quart.