The beauty of berries

A bowl of berries. Photograph: Graham Turner

"Some fruit with the frozen yoghurt?" asked my wife. But the white block resisted our efforts to chip bits off - we'd chucked a lot of local, high-fat yoghurt into the ice cream machine and churned it.

In the end, after needing at least an hour out of the freezer to soften, it was the best thing I've ever tasted - lactic, a touch salty and creamy.

On my plate, waiting to join the frozen yoghurt, was a mound of raspberries and white alpine strawberries, taken from a bowl of them that must have weighed a kilo.

My wife told me she had picked them when the rain let up for an hour or two a few days ago. They were exquisite, scarcely troubled by their 48-hour sojourn in the fridge.

Scented, as only raspberries are, they were exceeded only by the confected perfume of strawberries - here magnified tenfold. But it was the quantity that impressed. There were masses - enough for tarts for dozens of eaters, or sorbets for scores of sybarites.

What is going on? Nature owes us an explanation. It has rained for days. Look at the kitchen garden and weep. Where there was a dearth of asparagus in its season, the rains have brought a surfeit of thick, succulent spears.

"Pick me," they tease, "cut me." But we know damned well it's too late for that, and we endure their tumescent taunting.

Most of the early lettuces have bolted, and those that haven't have been reduced to lacy skeletons by hideous giant slugs who eat so daintily that they munch the fleshy parts of the lettuce and leave the green spines and ribs behind to torment us.

But never mind. Though we have moved the raspberry canes, they are strutting their stuff, fruiting earlier than expected with bigger, more fragrant berries than anyone has the right to expect.

Their fruit grows high up on the canes, and you don't even need to bend to harvest their spectacular bounty. Of course, the alpine strawberries are the opposite - but they cover the ground so extensively that no competitive weed stands a chance.

On the other hand, there may be mind-blowing quantities of them, but you have yourself to be in peak physical condition to be able to stoop to pick them. By the way, we did once have some red alpine strawberries, but the bigger, plumper white ones seem to have vanquished the reds.

Is it worth the bother of picking them? Well of course, if someone else does it - but it's backbreaking labour. And if you grow raspberries or these miniaturised strawberries, are you experiencing these weird gluts of them?

As they're both so highly scented, they really want to be eaten with something that provides a foil for their sweetness, but brings out their acidity.

That's why I think they're better with full-fat yoghurt or creme fraiche than with, for example, ice cream. To my taste, they do not need sugar.

What do you think is the best way to eat raspberries or wild strawberries? Suggestions welcomed - we've got enough of them to experiment.

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