Sunday, September 03, 2006

A tale of two berries

Our Michigan blueberries are fading into a distant and expensive memory. There were still a few at the Farmer's Market on Saturday, but they are up to $5 a pint - a few weeks ago they were $6 a quart. Fortunately, the raspberries are in full swing, and they made a delightful topping for homemade pancakes this morning.

It's a pretty generous topping, and that's because fresh, local, raspberries are ephemeral. Yes, they are soft, juicy, tart and yielding. But the very ripeness that gives them their deep red color and divine flavor means that they turn from marvelous to moldy in a minute. So they invite excess. The race is on - can we eat an entire quart of raspberries before they go bad? (So far the answer has been yes.)

Supermarket raspberries might as well be another species entirely. Here's a picture I took today of a package I bought about a week and a half ago, in a momentary lull in my supply of the fresh local kind.

10 day old raspberries, and not a spot of mold on them. Excellent for shipping, not so good for eating. They're as firm as they look, with large noticeable seeds. Dry, not juicy. More pink than red. And, well, the flavor just isn't much to speak of.

Come winter I'll probably be happy to have something - anything - even a pale imitation of late summer's flavor. But for now, I'm happy that I've got three farmer's markets a week at which to stock up on the real thing.

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