Food of the Month: Raspberries

June 1, 2011 at 6:04 am Leave a comment

That sweet-tart burst of spring goodness found in raspberries is something I wait for all year. As soon as truly fresh berries appear in the grocery store, I’m there with bells on. Berries are on the pricier side and they are high in pesticide use, so I decided to grow my own, and nothing is easier to grow than raspberry canes.

Purchase raspberries at a garden center such as Rick’s or find a friend with runaways. Some varieties will produce two or more crops in a season. I favor these because I like to eat raspberries for as long as I can and freeze the rest.

Choose a location in full sun where you can get at the row from both sides to make it easier to harvest. Raspberries need a little room to spread since many types fruit on second year canes and that cane dies once spent. You need a space where you can leave them in place for a year and let the new canes move in to replace the spent canes. In the spring, once you see signs of life, you can prune out the dry, brown canes to leave room for the new growth and air flow through the patch.

Raspberries require little once established. To get them going, prepare your bed with 2-3 inches of rich compost, tilled in to 12″ or as deep as you can get it. Plant the canes before they have tons of leaves and keep them well-watered while they are establishing themselves. After two or three weeks, you should be able to start watering less, but make sure to keep them well-watered through their first summer.

After the first year, raspberries will be fairly xeric. Even with a winter as dry as we had, I only watered them two or three times and they have come back with a vengeance this spring. You will want to give them a little extra water once the canes start to bloom and set fruit to increase production.

Nutritionally, all berries are packed with life-affirming goodness. Raspberries are particularly high in vitamin C and manganese. According to the website World’s Healthiest Foods,

“As an antioxidant food containing ellagic acid, raspberries help prevent unwanted damage to cell membranes and other structures in the body by neutralizing free radicals. Ellagic acid is not the only well-researched phytonutrient component of raspberry, however. Raspberry’s flavonoid content is also well documented. Here the key substances are quercetin,   kaempferol, and the cyanidin-based molecules called  cyanidin-3-glucosylrutinoside and cyanidin-3-rutinoside. These flavonoid molecules are also classified as anthocyanins, and they belong to the group of substances that give raspberries their rich red color. Raspberries’ anthocyanins also give these delectable berries unique antioxidant properties, as well as some antimicrobial ones, including the ability to prevent overgrowth of certain bacteria and fungi in the body (for example, the yeastCandida albicans, which is a frequent culprit in vaginal infections and can be a contributing cause in irritable bowel syndrome).

Interesting to see what might be delicious and generally helpful to overall health at the same time.

Enjoy raspberries in salads, cold summer soups and light desserts. Following is one of my favorite recipes. For a cocktail party, make bite-sized meringues drizzled with the sauce.

Meringues with Raspberry-Cardamom Sauce

8 servings

Begin at least a day before you plan to serve the dessert and you can bake the meringues up to a week ahead.  Don’t make them on a humid day as moisture prevents meringues from drying properly and staying crisp.  Use a 3 ½-inch round cookie cutter or a 3 ½ inch round can/glass to trace the bases.

Meringues

1-½ c. sugar

2 T. cornstarch

6 large egg whites, room temperature

¼ t. cream of tartar

Position 1 oven rack in bottom third of oven and the other in top third; preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using 3 ½-inch diameter cookie cutter as template, heavily trace 4 circles on each parchment sheet.  Turn parchment over so that marked side faces down, but shows through.

Whisk sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend.  Using heavy-duty or handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat whites in large bowl until foamy, about 1 minute.  Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.  Add sugar mixture, 1 T. at a time, beating until whites are very stiff and glossy, at least 4 minutes with heavy-duty mixer and 6-8 with handheld.  Scoop enough meringue into pastry bag fitted with medium star tip to fill ¾ full.  Pipe small dot of meringue under parchment in each corner of baking sheets.  Press parchment onto dots.

Starting in center of 1 marked circle, pipe meringue in continuous spiral to fill circle completely.  Pipe 1 meringue circle atop edge of base circle, forming standing rim.  Repeat, piping 2 more circles atop first, forming meringue cup.  Repeat with remaining circles, filling bag as needed.

Bake meringues 3 hours without opening oven door (sides of meringues may settle slightly).  Turn off oven; let meringues stand in closed oven overnight to dry completely.  (If making ahead, store airtight in single layer.)

Sauce

¾ c. seedless raspberry jam

½ c. sugar

1/3 c. water

1 16-oz. package frozen unsweetened raspberries (do not thaw) or 2 packages of fresh raspberries

1 t. ground cardamom

Fresh mint, thinly sliced

Whisk jam, sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves an jam melts.  Boil until sauce thickens and is reduced to generous ¾ cup, whisking often, about 7 minutes.  Add berries and cardamom; stir gently.  Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Assembly (If you freeze the vacherins, the meringues will be tender and chewy rather than crisp.)

Place each meringue on a small plate. Spoon raspberry sauce over.  Garnish with mint to serve.

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Entry filed under: Eating, Gardening, Health, Recipes.

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