Here in New Jersey, local raspberries are typically in abundance in July, August and September, but the annual supply that comes in from Mexico every November—just in time for Thanksgiving!—is both delicious and reasonably-priced (pending any impact from the recent severe hurricane that hit the Mexican coast in late October).
With their great taste and nutritious properties, I hope you’ll take advantage of this bumper crop!
REAPING THE BENEFITS OF RASPBERRIES
Raspberries are an extraordinarily flavorful fruit with a tart-sweet, almost floral taste that can’t be duplicated. A bramble fruit and cousin to the blackberry, raspberries once flourished wild in North America, but now almost all are cultivated and available only in limited supplies. Unlike blackberries, which are relatively firm, raspberries are hollow and are therefore extremely fragile. The plants themselves have a low yield and the berries frequently break when they’re picked, further reducing the quantity that can be shipped fresh.
They’re reasonably priced at the height of the season, but based on all the aforementioned factors, half-pints of raspberries can be priced quite high in the winter, even at wholesale. For that reason, I like to think of the November crop from Mexico as a limited-time gift to raspberry lovers like myself!
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Nearly all commercially cultivated raspberries are red, but there are also black and golden varieties. Black raspberries can be very good, but golden raspberries aren’t as sweet or flavorful as the red. For my money, rose-red raspberries can’t be beat— there’s no finer berry. They’re nutritional powerhouses as well—high in antioxidants, raspberries have anti-inflammatory properties, help regulate blood sugar levels, enhance cognitive function, and are even believed to contribute to weight loss.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Select dry, firm fruits with excellent form and hollow centers. Avoid soft, wet, or mildewed berries that seem to be stuck together or fruit in badly-stained containers (which indicates that it’s deteriorated).
Always refrigerate raspberries and use them the same day you purchase them if possible.
And handle them with care, as raspberries are the most delicate of all of the berries; rinse them briefly in cold water just before using them and use the spray setting of your faucet if available rather than placing them under the full force of the faucet, which can degrade them and turn them to mush.
Interestingly, raspberries weren’t always readily available in grocery stores until a few decades ago based on their perishability and the fact that the shipping logistics, refrigeration, and other equipment needed to keep them fresh and intact weren’t always in place. But thanks to breakthrough developments in raspberry plants in the 1990s (including the introduction of the Maravilla variety, which is less resistant to degeneration and mold) by berry providers like Driscoll’s helped commercialize the fruit and make it more accessible than ever.
Raspberries are delicious fresh and whole as is or with a little cream and are also wonderful puréed, slightly sweetened, and used as a sauce for ice cream or custards; you can also freeze the purée for an elegant sorbet. They’re also great built into baked goods, folded into smoothies, or tossed with green salads or other fruits.
Or try the following Raspberry Cream Cheese Pie, courtesy of Driscoll’s, a great company that I’ve worked with for years. This festive pie is a real favorite in our house, especially around Thanksgiving. From the Napolitano family to yours, wishing you a happy and healthy holiday!
Raspberry Cream Cheese Pie
- 1 prepared pie crust of choice
- 3 packages (6 ounces each) Driscoll’s raspberries, divided
- 1¼ cups heavy cream
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½-1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 6 ounces milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- Fresh mint springs, optional
Fill bottom of pie crust with one package of raspberries and set aside. Pour 1¼ cups heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer, add ½ cup of sugar and ½ teaspoon of almond extract (adding more to taste if desired). Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form (do not overmix) and set aside whipped cream mixture. Place one package (8 ounces) of cream cheese into a separate bowl and beat until smooth and even. Add cream cheese to whipped cream mixture, whisk at medium speed until pie filling is completely smooth, and spread filling evenly over berries inside pie crust. Top pie with remaining raspberries in a circular pattern starting in the center. Melt chocolate gradually in a microwave or on a double boiler until silky smooth. Drizzle chocolate decoratively over raspberries and garnish with fresh mint sprigs if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!
About “Produce Pete” Napolitano
With over 70 years of experience in the produce industry, New Jersey’s own “Produce Pete” Napolitano is a renowned fruit and vegetable expert, author and TV personality who’s appeared on a highly popular segment on WNBC’s Weekend Today in New York, every Saturday morning for over 30 years. For more information, visit producepete.com.
About Susan Bloom
A regular contributor to New Jersey Monthly and a variety of other well-known local and national publications, Susan Bloom is an award-winning New Jersey-based freelance writer who covers topics ranging from health and lifestyle to business, food and more. She’s collaborated with Produce Pete on a broad range of articles for over a decade.
Pete and Susan are the coauthors of Pete’s award-winning memoir/cookbook, They Call Me Produce Pete, available on Pete’s website and wherever books are sold.Click here to leave a comment