Vividly pink, exquisitely perfumed and very delicate, fresh raspberries are a real late summer treat. The overwhelming majority of raspberries sold in the UK are grown in Scotland where the long summer days help produce the most delicious berries.
Raspberries never fail to please when served with just a dusting of icing sugar and a lick of cream. A fresh raspberry sauce, made by pushing raspberries through a sieve and stirring in some sifted icing sugar, makes a wonderful addition to vanilla ice cream, apple juice, champagne, yoghurt, strawberries, cocktails, chocolate mousse, toast…
Raspberries are thought to be native to Asia and have been eaten since prehistoric times. They were cultivated by the Romans, but only gained widespread popularity after they were hybridized and improved by growers in England and France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Today raspberry production forms an important part of the Scottish economy, in particular the Tayside region where more than 15,000 tonnes are grown each year.
The raspberry (Rubus idaeus) is a member of the rose family. Botanically it is not a true berry (a fruit with many seeds scattered throughout the pulp) but an etaerio (or aggregate fruit) made up of drupelets (individual sections of fruit each with its own seed). Although rarely seen in the UK, yellow, orange and purple raspberries are grown in some parts of world.
Raspberries should be plump and dry, with a good shape and uniform colour. Avoid berries with their hulls intact as they will be under-ripe and tart.
Due to their hollow core raspberries are fragile and so should be handled with care. They are also highly perishable; remove any mushy raspberries before refrigerating and eat within a day or two. They do freeze very well: spread a single layer on a tray and freeze until solid before transferring to single portion freezer bags to be enjoyed over the winter.
Raspberries are prone to becoming damaged and mis-shapen if wet. If you’re going to be serving raspberries whole your best bet is to not wash them.
On July 11th each year, the tiny village of Concèze in France holds a Fête de la Framboise (Raspberry Festival). More than 6,000 people go along to meet producers, sample dishes such as peach melba or duck cooked in raspberry vinegar, and witness the creation of a giant raspberry tart.
If you like raspberries, why not try our recipe for Raspberry and Thyme custard tarts!