Lahey: Picking Raspberries

Jul 17, 2015

On summer mornings, I slip on my tall boots and head out my back door, plastic bowl in hand, hungry for my breakfast. As I walk across the lawn toward the raspberry patch, I temper my enthusiasm. Dessert and breakfast are perilously proximate in summer, and I’ve usually picked the patch bare the night before during my post-dinner stroll.

Surely, I remind myself, there weren’t enough hours during the short summer night for a breakfast’s worth of berries to ripen. And yet, somehow, there always are. It’s as if I’ve slept a day away, or the summer night has enlarged for the benefit of my bowl.

I noticed the first ripe berry on the 4th of July, a bright pink burst of color among thousands of pale green knots weighing down the canes. I found one more, hiding under a nearby leaf, and carried these two precious gifts to family. My son, Finnegan, got the first one. The perfect one. My husband got the second, a little asymmetrical, maybe not as ripe as the first.

I first purchased these canes ten years ago, when my children were little. I envisioned long summer days spent playing outside, foraging snacks from the garden and forest where we planted blueberries, ground cherries, apples, and strawberries. These other crops have proven lackluster, sporadic providers, but the raspberries – a mix of early and late season varieties, with their red and golden fruit – are prolific. They send out new shoots each year, and where I once sought to expand the patch, I now labor to contain it, ruthlessly ripping out the many in order to nurture the few.

Abby, my aging Yellow Lab, accompanies me on my morning trips to the patch, eager for her own breakfast treat. She’s perfected a picking style of her own, a sniff, then a delicate nibble and finally, a resolute tug with her front teeth, face pulled back in a grimace to keep her lips protected from thorns. She looks ridiculous, like an Englishwoman at high tea, nibbling away at a cucumber sandwich she suspects might bite her back.

Bellies and bowls full, we scan the patch one last time – I look high, she looks low – and then make our way back toward the house. We’ll be back tonight after dinner, though, eager to revisit this small miracle of summer and savor our share of its bounty.