Raspberries: Know Your Fruits and Veggies™

The raspberry is one of those fruits that screams summer! The raspberry is an edible fruit in the rose family which includes: apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, and strawberries. In the US, raspberries are the third most popular berry after strawberries and blueberries.

Scientists aren’t sure about the origins of raspberries because wild varieties appear on at least five continents, and there is enormous species diversity for this fruit. There is evidence showing they were cultivated 2,000 years ago in Europe, making raspberries one of the earliest berry crops.

There are over 200 species of raspberries though commercially grown varieties are one of four basic groups: red, black, purple and yellow/gold and may be sweet or tart. Raspberry plants can also be divided into two categories based the season in which they produce fruit.  Ever-bearing varieties produce fruit in the summer as well as the fall, while summer-bearing varieties only produce fruit in the summer.

Raspberries are aggregate fruits which are actually composed of many small individual fruits also called drupelets. An individual raspberry is made up of around 100 drupelets, each of which consists of a juicy pulp and a single central seed. A raspberry has a hollow core once it is removed from the stem. A raspberry bush can yield several hundred berries a year.

Raspberries are grown for the fresh fruit market and for commercial processing into individually quick frozen (IQF) fruit, purée, juice, or as dried fruit used in a variety of grocery products.

The raspberry’s nutritional value is among the highest known in whole foods. They are an outstanding source of phytonutrients, and provide us with dozens of anthocyanins, flavonoids, stilbenoids, phenolic acids, tannins and lignans. They are an unusually concentrated source of ellagitannins (like ellagic acid), cyanidins, and pelargonidins. Raspberry has an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of about 4900 per 100 grams, making it among the top-ranked ORAC fruits.

Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, and dietary fiber (26% Daily Value). They are a very good source of copper and a good source of vitamin K, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and potassium.

In short, raspberries are worthy of their recent designation as a SUPERFOOD!

Raspberries are a low-glycemic index food, with total sugar content of only 4%. Weird fact: Xylitol is a low-calorie sugar substitute extracted from raspberries. A teaspoonful of xylitol contains just 9.6 calories vs. 15 calories for sugar. Xylitol absorbs more slowly in the intestines than sugar and does not contribute to high glycemic index which makes it a suitable sugar substitute for people with diabetes.

How to Select and Store

Raspberries are highly perishable and should only be purchased one or two days prior to use. If you can, buy them from your local farmer’s market, to guarantee they haven’t had a long or rough trip to your grocery basket. Better yet, pick your own and make a day of it. . Freeze them for later use or make jam, jelly or sauces. Yum. When picking raspberries be sure to wear a long sleeve shirt to protect yourself from their thorny branches.

Choose berries that are fully ripe, firm, plump, and deep in color. Avoid fruit that is soft, mushy, or moldy. If you are buying berries prepackaged in a container, make sure that they are not packed too tightly, since this may cause them to become crushed and damaged, and that the container has no signs of stains or moisture, indications of possible spoilage.

Raspberries freeze very well. Wash them gently to maintain their delicate shape and then pat dry with a paper towel. Arrange them in a single layer on a flat pan or cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the berries to a heavy plastic freezer bag or plastic freezer container that can be sealed and return them to the freezer where they will keep for up to one year.

Tips for Preparing Raspberries

Raspberries are very delicate so wash them very gently and pat dry just prior to eating. Use overly soft berries for puree, sauces, jams or jellies.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Mix fresh raspberries in with cream of wheat or oatmeal for a sweet morning breakfast treat.
  • Sprinkle fresh raspberries with balsamic vinegar for a great taste treat.
  • Add to your next green salad
  • Plain yogurt mixed with raspberries, honey, and freshly chopped mint is delicious eaten
  • Add a handful to your regular smoothie recipe
  • Add to waffle or pancake batter or use as a fresh topping.
  • Homemade raspberry coulis can be used as a sauce for savory poultry dishes or sweet desserts.