native to: earliest evidence of cultivation is in Europe; may have originated in Eastern Asia
in season here: late June-July
Although red and black raspberries are the best known, they can also be purple, yellow, and golden. Each color has its own combination of nutrients (as usual, darker colors tend to have more flavor and nutrients while lighter colors are sweeter and milder).
Raspberries contain flavonoids, associated with memory and heart health; potassium, good for the heart and joints; antioxidants, protecting against cancer; fiber, supporting digestion and the immune system and helping stabilize blood sugar; vitamin C, good for the eyes; and a host of other good stuff like vitamins E and K, iron, and manganese. Raspberry extract is even being investigated as a weight-loss aid, although the research is still in its early stages.
Raspberries tend to retain pesticide residues, so this is a good time to splurge and buy organic ones. Studies have even found that organic raspberries have a higher antioxidant capacity than conventional ones.
Raspberries are members of the Rosaceae family, related to roses, apples, apricots, cherries, loquats, peaches, and almonds. They are “aggregate fruits,” composed of many small fruits or drupelets. Raspberries should be eaten within a day or two of purchase (so now you have an excuse); keep them in the fridge and don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Processed raspberries (jams, juices, etc.) can lack significant amounts of nutrients due to removal of seeds or exposure to heat, so there’s another reason to gobble them up on the way home.
At least five continents have wild raspberries, from Alaska and northern Asia to the Hawaiian Islands, so it’s not known where they originated. Raspberries are one of the earliest berry crops, with evidence of cultivation in Europe dating back a couple thousand years. Raspberry leaves have long been used to make tea for “female complaints” and pregnancy-related issues. Raspberry seed oil is currently of interest to the skin-care industry, being rich in vitamin E and omega-3s and even having a moderate SPF. You can even make an anti-wrinkle treatment by blending two cups of raspberries with a cup of yoghurt until smooth; keep it on your face 15 minutes.