Sunday, July 17, 2016


As a child, I didn't think much of raspberries. Growing up in northern British Columbia, Canada, raspberries seemed ubiquitous, and therefore of little account. My parents had a large garden with a sizeable patch of raspberry canes, as well currants, gooseberries, strawberries, rhubarb, and northern hardy fruit trees. From a young age, I was expected to help pick raspberries, a never-ending task. At that age, I think more raspberries found their way into my mouth than into the picking pail. My mom made raspberry pies, which I was always happy to eat, as well as jelly and jam. 

In my later childhood, after a brief interlude of staying with my aunt in what had been my Grandma's downtown house while my parents sold the first house and bought another, we moved to a different house in the same town. At my aunt's house, there was a large raspberry patch. My Dad said that he had put that patch in for his mom when she had moved into town from the farm. Those raspberry canes came from the family farm where my grandparents had homesteaded when they first moved to the valley. 

So when we moved to our new house on the hill which had only flower gardens, my parents had to start over in developing a vegetable and fruit garden. Dad brought some raspberry canes up from my aunt's house. They thrived and multiplied. As all of us grew up and moved away and the raspberry patch expanded, the picking and processing of raspberries became a time consuming job for my Mom every summer. She made and froze pies to supply to church and community events throughout the upcoming year. Every summer she made dozens and dozens of jars of raspberry jam and raspberry jelly, as well as cherry, currant, gooseberry, and  plum jam and jelly. She supplied all of her friends and the soup kitchen/food bank with jam. Every time we visited, we came away with a boxful of jars of her homemade jellies and jams. And still there was jam to spare. 

When I left home to go to university and then in the early years of my career, I moved a lot. For a period of fifteen years, I moved on average twice a year. The longest I stayed in one place was in my first house in Regina, where we lived for 21/2 years. During that period of my life, I lived in university residences, in apartments, with my boyfriend's parents, in a shared house, in rental houses, and in my own house. Few of those places had yards, and those that had yards did not have fruit or vegetable gardens. The only place that I lived in all of those years that had a raspberry patch was my boyfriend's parents' place. In every place with a yard, I would develop a little vegetable garden, only to move on again before the garden really started to thrive.

During those years without a garden, I came to appreciate raspberries. I would look at the tiny cartons of raspberries in the grocery stores, and could never bring myself to buy them at the outrageous prices, knowing that they would taste insipid compared to fresh-picked ones that I was used to. Store-bought jams tasted so processed and overly sweet. When we visited my parents in northern BC, I spent time in the raspberry patch, happily eating raspberries and helping my Mom pick. 

When we bought our second house in southern BC, we put in a vegetable garden and a raspberry patch, and planted a plum tree and a cherry tree. We stayed there long enough - five years - to benefit from the vegetable garden and raspberries, but not the fruit trees. When we moved back to northern BC and bought our third house, I made a trip to my parent's town. My dad dug up some of my Grandma's raspberry canes and I brought them home and planted them. This third house had a big yard but no garden, so once again we developed a garden from scratch. We also planted two northern hardy apple trees and a northern cherry tree. We stayed here eleven years. Like my Mom, every summer I made jams and jellies from the raspberries, strawberries, apples, and cherries. 

And then I moved again, to another northern town. Once again, there was no garden. However, there was a decrepit greenhouse, and many fruit trees. I repaired the greenhouse, put in a vegetable garden, and established a raspberry patch, and strawberry patch. Mom divided a gooseberry and black current bush, and provided me with a small plum tree (originally from her Dad's orchard) which I planted in the yard. We enjoyed this house and garden for eight years, then moved to the prairies. 

We have a lovely house here that has been professionally landscaped. But, as I have written before, it had no fruit or vegetable gardens. Two summers ago, I put in raspberry canes and now they are truly thriving and bearing well. So far this summer, I have made a raspberry pie, a raspberry pudding cake, raspberry sauce for pancakes, and frozen some berries. 

Raspberry Pudding Cake

Meanwhile, my Mom who is now in her eighties, has sold her house in northern BC and bought a lovely first floor condo in the downtown area of her community. The house and yard were getting to be too much to manage. However, she struck a deal with the fellow who bought the house (a young man who is not particularly interested in fruit trees and berry bushes) that she can come and pick fruit and berries whenever she wishes. I was talking with her on the phone this week, and she said she had been up to the house to pick raspberries, and has made a couple of batches of jelly and jam. 

My perspective on raspberries has changed. Now I appreciate them, and feel grateful to be able to grow my own, or to savour homemade raspberry jam. Like my Mom, I hate to waste a single berry. 


  1. Oh, I am so jealous of your raspberry life! Fresh, raw raspberries are my absolutely favoritest food of all. They are SO expensive, but I buy them every week at the store anyway. I can hardly bear to share them even with my husband! Give me a raspberry and I am a happy soul. Perhaps they can be grown in Virginia and I should try growing some!

  2. Kathleen, raspberries seem to thrive in our cooler Canadian climate. Lucky for me! I hope they will grow for you too. Two fruits that I love but can't grow in my current location are peaches and cherries. I would bet that you have great peaches and cherries in Virginia.


  3. Wow, I wish I grew up with a berry patch in my backyard too! That sounds like it was amazing. That raspberry pudding cake looks delicious as well! I grew up in the south so I had citrus trees everywhere and more oranges than I knew what to do with!

    Jefferson @ TJ Lamb

  4. Jefferson, for many years of my life, it was a fantasy of mine to be able to pick an orange off a tree. I even planted an orange seed and grew a little tree in a pot indoors at one point, but it never got big enough to flower. I finally fulfilled the dream a few years ago when we were travelling in southern Portugal. There were some orange trees at the posada where we were staying. Clearly, no one was picking the oranges and they were falling to the ground and rotting. I picked a couple of low hanging oranges. Those fruits were so sweet and juicy that we had to eat them standing over the sink while the juices ran down our chins. That is my favourite orange memory.