Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Raspberries Have Thorns

We are nearing the end of raspberry season at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. I have been able to harvest about a pint each evening from my plot alone and – after examining our entire exterior fence on Saturday morning -- even had enough to donate almost a pound to Lutheran Social Service’s food pantry on Saturday afternoon. Last year, I froze almost a half dozen quarts of berries and made jam, but I will fall well short of that this year. However, I cannot blame that on the drought because we have had more berries than ever this year. (Even our newly transplanted seedlings bore fruit despite the lack of rain or care). Unlike last year, the neighborhood kids are wild about berries and come over every day to pick them from our exterior fence. I’ve even started giving them containers so that they can take berries home to wash. Even with this much interest, we’ve had an alarming number of ripe berries shrivel on the vine from lack of harvesting.

The kids – particularly the younger ones – are intimidated by the many thorns. My arms, hands and ankles are a bloody and scarred mess of thorn scratches. It takes me almost an extra hour each evening that I pick berries to both find them and to gingerly harvest them while trying to avoid the thorns. Even though it is dangerous and time consuming, I think harvesting berries is worth it because black raspberries are among my favorite foods on earth and they are highly nutritious. Their dark color makes a great dye (and was used by the USDA to stamp meat) and is associated with high anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and other beneficial properties. Among other things,

  •  Studies at Ohio State University showed a 60–80 % reduction in colon tumors in rats fed a diet with black raspberries added.
  • Studies at Ohio State University showed an 80% reduction in esophageal cancers in mice fed a 5-10% diet of black raspberries.
Last night, one of our young girls was complaining about the thorns. I had to wonder why they have thorns when our sweet blueberries do not. (The blueberries are also a hit with the kids, but they are not as plentiful as the raspberries). This morning I had an epiphany while looking into my backyard at my lonely blueberry bush. Another damn squirrel.

As many of you know, one of the reasons I started the SACG was because the neighborhood squirrels here in Bexley eat most of my tomatoes every summer. I have an oak tree in my back yard and there is a walnut tree a few houses down the street. (They climb to the top of my trees and drop the walnuts onto my patio to break them open. They are smart and dangerous). They have no natural predators here and they are the bane of every backyard gardener and winter bird-watcher in Bexley. (If you’re ever stumped for conversation with someone from Bexley, bring up our over abundant squirrel population. That is virtually guaranteed to create a reaction like mine). Particularly in dry hot summers like this one, they pick my tomatoes, sit up on my privacy fence to mock me, take a few bites, drop the tomato and then move on. Occasionally, they will simply take a bite while the fruit is still on the vine. It is very, very frustrating. Happily, there are no squirrels on Stoddart Avenue. (There are plenty of possums and a freakish number of groundhogs and stray cats, but no squirrels).

Perhaps by now you have figured out the connection between raspberry thorns and my tomato thieves. Yes, that damn squirrel ate every single blueberry (ripe or not) off my six-year old blueberry bush this morning. (Luckily, I had grabbed a few as they ripened over the last couple of days). I also have red, white and black raspberries in my back yard, but the squirrels leave them alone. Thorns deter pesky varmints like squirrels from eating all of the good fruit. (They are also pretty handy at deterring human varmits from climbing or knocking down our fence).  So, this morning, despite my many unsightly scars, I have become very fond of raspberry thorns and I hope you are, too.

1 comment:

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