Locally grown raspberries are available at MOON Co-op Grocery and Oxford Farmers Market. Red raspberries predominate but black ones can be spotted sometimes.
I associate raspberries with early summer, so I was disappointed to see a meager supply back in June. Now, in late summer, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see a lot more.
I asked MOON Co-op’s local raspberry grower Charles Geraci about the timing. He explained that his principal variety was called Caroline, which is designed for a late-season harvest.
At Oxford’s Farmers Market, Brad Brubaker recently explained that his Little Creek Valley Farm plants a wide variety of raspberries, with different harvest dates. That way, they hopefully have raspberries through the summer.
The Latin name for red raspberry is Rubus idaeus, which means literally “bramble bush of Ida.” In Greek mythology, Ida, who was Zeus’s nursemaid, pricked her finger on a thorn, and her blood turned berries from white to red. Red raspberries reached America either from Asia across the Bering Strait or from European settlers.
Black raspberry, named Rubus occidentalis (western bramble), is thought to be native to the Americas. Its local availability is a treat, because large-scale commercial growers rarely ship them out of the West Coast.
The best way to eat local raspberries is straight from the carton. Perhaps atop a Kate Currie scone and crème fraiche.
Local red raspberries are noticeably less firm than supermarket varieties that come from California or Mexico. Driscoll’s, the nation’s dominant supplier of supermarket raspberries, grows extra-firm varieties designed to survive long-distance shipping.
With mushy berries and other overripe fruit, best bet is a crisp. Spread fruit in the bottom of a baking dish. For the top layer of the crisp, cut 1 tablespoon butter into small pieces, add to a bowl of around 1 cup mix of rolled oats and granola, use your fingers to mix until the lumps of butter are gone, and spread over the berries. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Use the firmer raspberries to make a tart. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Melt 9 tablespoons unsalted local butter.
Mix the butter with 1/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon each almond and vanilla extracts. Add 1 1/3 cup flour to form a soft cookie-like dough. I use a mix of whole wheat pastry and white flour.
Transfer the dough to the pan, pressing the dough evenly into the bottom and sides. Bake the shell for 12 minutes at 375.
Remove the shell from the oven and sprinkle 1/4 cup of finely ground almonds on it. The ground almonds impart a nice flavor and keep the shell from getting soggy when the filling is added.
For the filling, mix 1/2 cup crème fraiche, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1/4 teaspoon each almond and vanilla extracts. Pour the filling into the shell and bake for 10 minutes.
As the tart cools, add raspberries on top.
MOON Co-op is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. See it online at www.mooncoop.coop.