Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Buckets & Buckets of Red Raspberries

    Raspberries are one of the few things left to harvest and preserve, but it's an easy task: we pick all the rows every other day, wash them in the kitchen sink and freeze them in gallon ziplock bags or can them as peach raspberry jam (after saving a few out in a tupperware to eat with our morning granola). 
    In the winter we mainly use the frozen berries in fruit smoothies which we all drink in the morning during scripture study (making those smoothies and doing the laundry are my two family chores that I have done before breakfast). Other than the smoothies we use the raspberries for icy jeweled parfet, topping on Dad's honey whole-wheat cheese cake and some other things.

    We have over two hundred feet of raspberries planted in rows on our hill. We have two varieties: Carolinas and Heritage. It's my joke that as soon as Mom and Dad grow too old to manage the farm and give it to us kids to take care of, I'm going to rip out the Carolinas and plant Heratage instead. I personally don't like the Carolinas because they're stickery and bare small mealy berries, while the Heritage give us BIG beautiful red raspberries and are not as stickery.

    See the beetle? That's a Japanese Beetle and they are responsible for how ragged some of the raspberry leaves are. Every year, Mom offers us a penny for every beetle we catch and kill. I've never done it (I don't like how the beetles feel in my hand) but my brothers and sisters enjoy the little side job. They pick with two buckets attached to their belts: an empty one for berries and another one with an inch of soapy water for the beetles. 
    It doesn't take very long for these beetles to die as long as there's soap in the water and once they're dead you can pour them out around the plants that you want to protect. I guess other beetles can smell the dead ones and stay away.

    We didn't discover this belt trick until we went to a you-pick blueberry place and saw it done. Mom has found belts of all sizes at the Amish thrift stores for really cheap. We keep them hung up in the green house with the picking buckets (we have two-gallon and one-gallon picking buckets). When it's time to suit up for berry picking we find a belt, loop it through the bucket's handle and secure it around ourselves. The belt speeds up the process because it allows you to pick with both hands instead of holding your bucket with one. 
    However the buckets do get heavy, so pick as a group with smaller buckets, or (if you're by yourself) empty your bucket halfway through and start fresh. 

    I love picking raspberries all alone (I do get tired  and start pining for a partner by the end :) because the process is repetitious enough that my mind can wander. I usually ponder my brewing story ideas, but sometimes I just listen to what's going on around me. Today I could hear out neighbor and his brothers building his house down the road. If I pick early in the morning (before 8:00) I can hear the Amish school bell ring, and there are always birds. My favorite bird is the Mourning Dove.

    Believe it or not, picking raspberries is an exhausting job :)

    Of course, when you don't use pesticide, it's granted that you'll have to share a bit of your harvest with the pests. We've just learned to plant enough to feed out family, the birds and the bugs. But we always wash the berries before freezing them to get rid of all the bugs.
    The number of raspberries we get every picking is never the same. It climbs and then drops over the season. We keep a year supply of frozen raspberries so they'll last us until the season starts again the next year: about 12+ gallons. We didn't have to can any raspberry peach jam this year because we made extra last year. BUT I really want to share that recipe with you because it my Mom's original recipe and it's SO good. Until then ...