The “Fruits” of My Labor, Raspberry Picking

It seems like another lifetime ago that a friend and I, armed with our “free labor”, also known as our children, would go raspberry picking. Now I don’t mean we picked a few pints, no, we picked for days. A lot of folks don’t realize that raspberries get picked twice in a season, once in July and then again in September. We would pick 40-50 pounds a year. We would make regular jam and Captain Morgan- Raspberry Jam. We would also make a Raspberry Honey Mustard Dip for pretzels and a Godiva Liquor and Raspberry Sundae Topping. We would also freeze the fresh berries for use throughout the year. At the holidays, we would give Raspberry Baskets filled with the jams and sauces as gifts for our family and friends.

Life got busy and we stopped picking raspberries, but I never forgot how amazing it was to pick those succulent berries. It wasn’t just about the tasty treats we made. It was also about the time we shared with each other and our children. The kids loved it. I think they ate more than they saved, but the young ones were great for gathering the berries on the lower vines. They learned a lot of important lessons picking berries. They learned to respect the bees and not pick the ones the bees were interested in. They learned the importance of team work. And they learned that you could make things from the gifts that nature provided.

We adults learned a lot too. We learned how therapeutic it was to pick berries. When you pick raspberries, you only think about one thing, picking the biggest and ripest berries you could find. All the troubles of the day melted away as we forged on with our mission. I can’t explain how gratifying it was to have those berries fall into your hand and to watch the bottom of the pail disappear. There was a sense of purpose and accomplishment as we weighed the berries and discovered just how productive we were. We enjoyed the accolades from our family and friends as we shared the fruits of our labor with them. They would ask with anticipation each year if we would be gifting them with our Raspberry Baskets again. One of my fondest memories was of my father. He had Pancreatic Cancer and was undergoing some aggressive treatments. At times, he didn’t have much of an appetite, but he loved our raspberry jam. When nothing else sounded appetizing, he would ask for jars of jam and he would eat it with a spoon, right out of the jar.

It’s been 18 years since I picked raspberries. I woke up this morning and asked my boyfriend if he had any plans for the day. He said no. I suggested we go raspberry picking. At first, he scoffed at the idea, but his love for raspberries got the best of him. We headed to Garden Works in Salem, NY. It was his first time picking raspberries and I wasn’t sure how long he would last. He rose to the task and together, we picked over six pounds of berries in just over an hour. Truth be told, he out picked me! We dropped some off to his parents who love raspberries and we made their day!. We are freezing some, eating some and I have plans for Raspberry Mojitos. We didn’t quite get enough to make jam, but, I am contemplating going back later this week to pick some more to make jam. Once I was out there picking, I remembered why I loved picking raspberries so much, that feel of them dropping into my hand, the way all my cares melted away and all the fond memories of the times we spent picking the berries and the reaction of family and friends to the fruits of my labor. There is a new generation I can show this to, my grandson. I’m hoping he will enjoy picking berries as much as his mom did. I think maybe I’ll do some Raspberry Baskets for Christmas.

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