Friday, February 26, 2016

The Many Uses of the Wonderful Raspberry


Sorry, couldn’t resist. I did not mean the sort of raspberry that involves sticking your tongue out of your mouth and making rude noises. I mean the plant and its heavenly berries. You see, raspberries are by far my favorite food. I am even now waiting for 13 plants (6 red summer-bearing, 6 red fall-bearing, and 1 golden raspberry), to arrive from a fine nursery near the slopes of Mt. Rainier. And my dear husband has created the perfect patch in which to put them. I can hardly wait. So, when I stumbled across a section in La Belle AssemblĂ©e about raspberries, I couldn’t wait to share that with you either!

The author of the article in the October 1810 edition of that famous ladies’ magazine rhapsodizes about raspberries almost as readily as I do.

“This . . . fruit was well known to the ancients, from whom it received the name of Rubus, either from the redness of the twigs of the parent plant, or from the colour of its juice, which so often stained the taper fingers of the Roman maidens, as it does even now with our fair countrywomen, who are not ashamed to leave the library of science for the humbler studies of the confectionary or still-room. In the latter, they may learn by practice how to please a husband’s taste, even in the gratifications of the palate.”

Yes, well, I didn’t start eating raspberries for my husband’s sake. It’s rather the other way around at my house.

“Its essential character is too minute to require description where the fruit itself is so well known; but we must not forget to mention that of the general genus, there are no less than thirty-two varieties, comprising every species of the  Bramble as well as of the Raspberry.”

Thirty-two varieties? I knew there was a reason I loved England!

“Amongst us the old name of Raspis, or Raspibsberry; in some parts of England it is called the Hindeberry, and also Framboise, from the French. It is believed to be indigenous with us, as it is a native of many parts of Europe, being found not only in woods and hedges, but also in moist situations, and even in rocky places.”

Interesting. The raspberries I have known do not like moist places. They hate getting their feet wet, which worries me a little here in Western Washington. That’s one of the reasons I wanted stock from the area.

“It is needless to expatiate on the estimation in which it is held when prepared as a sweet-meat; we may, however, with propriety describe it when ripe as a fruit of the most fragrant kind, as subacid and cooling, allaying thirst and heat, and promoting the natural habits in common with other summer fruits.”

Now we’re talking! In fact, the author goes on to list several other interesting uses for raspberries in early nineteenth century England:

  • As a syrup approved for children by the College of Physicians, with instructions on its use in the Pharmacopeia
  • As a way to remove tartar from teeth
  • As a rather potent and rare wine
  • As a dye (from the twigs) to turn wool, silk, and mohair black
  • As food (the leaves) for silkworms when mulberry leaves cannot be found.
Even in nineteenth century England, they were considered a wonder-fruit!

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