Have you ever tasted a golden raspberry? Do golden raspberries grow where you live?
In Portland, Oregon, USA you can sometimes find them at this time of year though they aren’t as plentiful or popular as red raspberries. My daughter Isobel and I saw a few baskets of them at the downtown Portland Farmers Market last Saturday. As we walked past one of the booths selling berries we overhead a conversation in which a confused customer, an older gentleman, asked the seller about the golden raspberries as he’d never seen them before. When the berry farmer told him that the berries are a variety of raspberries that are golden in color, the older gentleman responded by saying that there’s no such thing as golden raspberries, to which the younger gentleman kindly and calmly replied that in fact they do exist and here they are. Perhaps the disbelieving customer had never until now lived in or visited a place where such raspberries grow. Or perhaps he’d never noticed golden raspberries before now. They can be easy to miss, actually.
I never knew about golden raspberries until my old neighbor Fred introduced them to me eleven summers ago when my daughter Isobel and I moved into the house across the street from his little house and huge garden. Some of you might remember Fred from other essays I’ve written. For those of you who are new to the Gero-Punk Project, you should know that by the time Fred died four years ago in his 80s we had become true friends. Our friendship formed and was cultivated in his garden, which was more like a mini urban farm. With each new summer, especially the summers during which he was beginning to physically decline, I was offered an ever greater role as his gardening partner. The two summers after his death I was honored to be entrusted with the primary responsibility for keeping the garden going.
Alas, in 2012 his adult children decided to keep the little house but sell the plot upon which the huge garden had dwelled for almost one-hundred years, having been started by Fred’s parents in the early part of the 20th century. Soon after the plot was sold to a property development company I watched from my front window as the lovely fig tree was dismembered, the asparagus and artichoke patches were bulldozed, and the back garden shed was knocked down and tossed into a heap. But before the well-established raspberry patch could be destroyed we managed to dig up and transplant in my yard some of the canes for both the red and the golden raspberries. I also swiped some broken bricks and pieces of flagstone and marble that Fred had used to border raised beds.
Now what grows in Fred’s garden is the sweet young family that lives in the huge house that was built upon the plot – dad, mom, twin boys, baby brother, and Lucy-the-dog.
Golden raspberries come on a bit later and stick around a bit longer than do the red raspberries. Sometimes I have trouble seeing the golden raspberries tucked behind the canes and leaves as they don’t announce themselves with as much fanfare as the red raspberries do. Anything you can do with a red raspberry you can do with a golden raspberry and a mix of the two together is a lovely and surprising site to behold! To my taste, a golden raspberry is more floral and sweet – though not too sweet — and less tart compared to a red raspberry.
Golden raspberries were Fred’s wife’s favorite fruit and he planted a few canes of them for her when they were first married in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I never met her as Fred had been a widower for decades by the time I moved in across the street as a single mother of a little daughter. Fred told me a lot about his wife and was sure she and I would have been friends had we met. Their relationship is a lovely story. His wife had been married once before and became divorced during a time when that was not common; when she and Fred met, she was a single mother to a young son. They created a new family, eventually adding two more children to the mix: a daughter and a son who are now just a few years older than I am. Fred and his wife and their various kids all lived in the little house across the street, the house in which Fred had grown up, and they all worked in the huge garden together, the garden that Fred’s parents had started so long ago.
I miss Fred at least once each and every day but I miss him more frequently and most intensely during the summer, especially when my little garden really starts growing. Everything reminds me of him and connects me to him through time and space, especially tomatoes and figs and artichokes and escarole. But raspberries, especially golden raspberries, remind me of Fred’s wife. When I eat a golden raspberry, especially if I’ve just plucked one from the cane and popped it into my mouth, I think of her, a woman I never met except through the stories of her Fred shared with me.