Aug 6, 2018
by Ron Skaar
Raspberries, a member of the rose family, are believed to have originated in Eastern Asia. The red raspberry was probably introduced to North America by pre-historic people who had crossed thru the Bering Strait.
Paleolithic cave dwellers ate raspberries, according to archaeological evidence. This delicate fruit has been a part of the human diet, ever since. In the Hellenistic period raspberries were associated with fertility and are described in Greek mythology.
Raspberries began to be cultivated during the 4th century, A.D. according to the Roman agricultural writer Palladius. The plant was valued for its sweet berries but more value was placed on the leaves, which have long been used for teas and medical preparations.
The juice of the raspberry was also used as a red stain in tapestry, during the Middle Ages.
By the 13th century the English king Edward I enthusiastically encouraged the cultivation of raspberries, through out the British Isles.
European settlers brought raspberry canes along with them to the New World. They continued the berries cultivation and crossed it with the native black raspberry. By 1771 cultivated stock was on sale in Virginia. George Washington grew raspberries at Mount Vernon and by the time of the Civil War there were at least 40 known varieties.
That black raspberry is one of a few of the native fruits found in North America. Immigrant families brought tastes for the fruits of their homelands, the citrus, melons, mangos, peaches, pomegranates and berries they introduced became mainstream. America’s favorite fruit, the banana, is not grown commercially here, but imported from Central and South America.
Russia now produces most of the worlds raspberries while the United States and Mexico together account for one-third of the world crop. They are grown commercially in almost every state, led by Washington with 70 million tons per year of raspberries in production.
Cane berries are composite fruits, a single flower has from 50 to 150 ovaries. Each little segment of raspberry is a complete stone fruit, like a miniature plum. These segments are held together by those tiny hairs on the surface, which were the inspiration for the invention of Velcro!
The raspberries delicate structure around a hollow core, make it fragile, a bit costly and essential to eat as soon as possible. But despite its sensitive structure this berry is packed with fiber, thanks in part to its edible seeds. This soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol.
Similar to other berries, raspberries are rich in antioxidant containing pigments, which give them their brilliant red hues. In August, there are three national days celebrating this berry, and Raspberry Tart Day comes on the 11th of this month.
1 1/2 pints fresh raspberries
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
7 ounces frozen all-butter puff pastry (half of package), thawed in refrigerator.
Lay out sheet of puff pastry on parchment lined pan. Brush two inches around the edges of rectangle with water then fold in 1-1/4 inches of the edge all around tart. Press lightly to seal.
Trim the edges slightly all around so the 2 layers of dough are seen on all sides. Prick the bottom of dough with fork to allow edges to rise during baking. Brush rim with egg wash and freeze for one hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake until tart shell is golden and the rim well risen, about 35 minutes. If the bottom puffs during baking, press down with back of fork.
While the shell is still warm, spread half the jam over the bottom, in an even layer. Set aside 3/4 pint of best-looking berries, spread remaining berries in shell and crush slightly. Let cool.
Melt the remaining jam in small saucepan and spoon a little over crushed berries. Arrange remaining berries in neat rows on top and carefully brush with remaining melted jam. Let cool, cut into strips and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.6-8 servings.
PHOTO by Jon Russo
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