Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In Season in West Michigan: Raspberries

The duality of raspberries’ sweet and tart flavor has long thrilled us in the heat of summer. These delicate composite berries have a long history, with records as early as 300 AD in Rome. In fact, one ancient describes how raspberries acquired their red hue. An infant Zeus was being cared for by the nymph Ida. When he began to cry, she reached for a white berry, pricking her finger on the plant’s thorns. A drop of blood splashed upon the fruit, and raspberries have been red since.

Lucky for us, raspberries come in an entire range of delicious colors, not just “blood red.” In fact, there are 200 species of our featured berry, from black to purple and even yellow, each offering its own flavor profile. Purple raspberries are a cross between the red and black varieties while golden berries are a mutation from the red, offering a sweeter flavor than the rest.

Growing Season

Typically, Michigan raspberries are ready in July though the length of harvest will vary by type of plant. Raspberries may be summer-bearing, ready mid to late summer for a single harvest, or ever-bearing, which will produce berries in the fall as well, continuing until frost.


It is said that raspberries can be grown from the Arctic to the equator. They require well-drained, loam soils and full exposure to sunlight.


Berries will begin to develop shortly after blossoms appear. Ripe berries will exhibit a darker blush, be firm to the touch and easily loosen from their cores when gently pulled. The darker the raspberry’s color, the sweeter they taste. Once picked, the fruit will not continue to ripen. Wear thick gloves to avoid being pricked by thorns. Remember, raspberries are incredibly delicate, so be careful not to overfill you container or pack berries down.


The fragile raspberry is quite perishable, more so than blueberries or strawberries. At room temperature, they will mold quickly, so prompt refrigeration- where they’ll last for a couple of days- is important. Most berries shouldn’t be washed until you are ready to enjoy them, and this is especially true of raspberries.

Fresh: They should be stored unwashed in a shallow container after removing any soft or rotting berries. Raspberries will remain fresh for up to three days and should not be washed in cool water until just before their use.

Frozen: Arrange the berries in a single layer and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. They will keep for one year.


Raspberries offer a sweet, yet healthy, bite-sized treat. They do not contain fat, sodium or cholesterol while being high in soluble fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium and folate. The small seeds even contain Vitamin E. Raspberries also contain an anti-inflammatory property that may help reduce inflammation of the joints as well as ellagic acid, an anti-carcinogenic compound. All this at only 64 calories per cup!

Did You Know?

  • Red raspberries are thought to originate in Asia Minor. 
  • The English cultivated, hybridized and improved raspberries in the Middle Ages, eventually exporting plants to by the late 1700's. 
  • Raspberries are said to be a love-inducing fruit. 
  • During pregnancy, raspberry tea is used to combat nausea from morning sickness.

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