Raspberry Pie
May 01, 2018

Let’s Talk About Raspberries

By MaryAnn Miano

Raspberry Pie

If a botanist were to tell you that a raspberry was not a berry but a banana was, you might think that something had gone wrong with his science.  Technically, a raspberry is a collection of a juicy drupe, but a berry means one thing to a scientist and quite another to the average grocery shopper.  We use the word “berry” to describe certain small fruits that are good to eat.

Strange as it may seem, the strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry are all closely related, and they all belong to the same family as the rose.  Raspberry bushes remind us of rose bushes in a number of ways, and so many of them have thorns that the fruit growers often call them “bramble” (an old word meaning “thorny bush”) fruits.  The word “raspberry” comes from the Latin Rufus idaeus, or ruber, meaning “red” and idaeus, referring to Mount Ida near Troy, where first-century Roman scholar Pliny visited and later wrote about the region’s raspberries.

It is thought, based on evidence supplied by fossils found in Swiss lake dwellings,that the raspberry may have been known many centuries B.C., yet there are no references of the fruit in ancient Latin, Greek, or Oriental writings.  Cultivation of the berry, which is native to most temperate regions of the world, occurred as early as the mid-sixteenth century in England.

The modern raspberry (much improved in taste and sweetness than the ancient one) is the product of the skill of the plant breeder.  In about 1800 growers began crossing different brambles, and from these crosses have come hundreds of different varieties of berries.  The loganberry, boysenberry, and youngberry are examples of these.

The raspberry bush’s round “drupelets” fall easily from the central core that supports it until ripe.  Birds, eating the fleshy fruit, carry the seeds contained in the drupelets and randomly scatter them over the countryside.  Once established, the plants propagate themselves by sending up new, finely prickled canes, two to five feet tall.  Those who hope to harvest the fruit can easily identify the wild plants by the serrated leaflets.  Raspberry patches produce a white blossom in spring.  The observant harvester can return (hopefully before the birds do!) in July and August to gather the soft, ripe, red fruit.

A raspberry is a sweet and intensely aromatic but delicately flavored fruit containing strong antioxidants such as Vitamin C, quercetin and Gallic acid that fight against cancer, heart, and circulatory disease and age-related decline.  Raspberries are high in ellagic acid and have anti-inflammatory properties.  There are eight grams of fiber to a cup with only 5 grams of sugar.  Low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, the raspberry is great for dieters.  It is also a good source of Vitamin K and magnesium.  They are very rich in pectin, which makes them one of the best fruits for preserving.

May 3 is National Raspberry Tart Day.  Don’t razz the raspberry!  Try your hand with the Recipe of the Month, and don’t forget to search your backyards for the possibility of a wild raspberry bush.  Pick them fresh before the birds and deer do, and enjoy this healthy, heavenly “berry” to your heart’s content!

RECIPE OF THE MONTH

Raspberry Tart

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/2 pints (5 cups) fresh raspberries, rinsed and drained

Sifted confectioners’ sugar

Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Wipe an 11-inch tart pan with a removable rim with a paper towel dipped in a flavorless oil if the surface isn’t well seasoned.

Combine the flour and sugar in a food processor.  With the motor running, gradually add the butter through the feed tube.  Process until thoroughly incorporated.

Stir the egg yolk and vanilla together in a cup.  With the motor running, gradually add egg mixture through the feed tube.  Pulse the mixture until it begins to pull together.  If the mixture seems too dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water and process until a dough forms.  The dough should be crumbly but not dry.

Turn the dough out directly into the tart pan.  Press it up along the sides and on the bottom of the pan in a relatively even layer; the dough will have a rough surface.

Note: While the crust can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to be baked, it tastes best when it is baked right away.

To make the filling, stir the sugar and flour together in a large bowl until blended.  Add one half of the raspberries and toss to coat with the sugar mixture.  Spoon into the prepared crust and top with any sugar left in the bottom of the bowl.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Bake until the edges are golden brown and the berries are hot and bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes, running a spoon through the berry mixture to turn over any berries that still have flour on them halfway through the cooking time.  Remove the pan from the oven.  Carefully arrange the remaining berries, stem ends down, close together all over the surface of the tart, pressing them down gently into the hot berry mixture.  Cool the tart on a wire rack.

Before serving, push the tart up out of the pan.  Sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar.  Cut into wedges and serve with a spoonful of whipped cream or a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream if desired.