By Jim Gilbert
We usually pick the first ripe garden raspberries on July 1 in the Twin Cities area, but last year it was on June 12, and this year it is now. Because raspberries are quite fragile and perishable, making it difficult to market them widely, they’re especially valuable as a home garden fruit. They’re easy to grow if you have a sunny location.
And here in Minnesota the wild red raspberry is also one of the most common shrubs, especially in the northern two-thirds of the state, giving outdoor adventurers the chance to pick this great tasting fruit out in the wild.
Red raspberries are about 84 percent water but they also contain vitamins A and C, along with minerals, including potassium. The raspberry fruit is an aggregate — each of the little bumps in the berry is a tiny fruit itself, complete with a seed and fleshy covering. The berries should be picked as soon as they can be easily slipped off the core without breaking the texture of the berry.
The English name raspberry comes from the thorny canes that will rasp your legs when you walk through a thicket of them. The plant grows wild from the arctic to the equator wherever there is enough moisture, and because it grows in so many places, people in different regions have given it different names. As far back as Roman times it was called “rubus,” meaning something like “red berry.”
This Latin name lives on in the scientific name of the raspberry genus, “Rubus.” Like the blackberry to which it is closely related, the raspberry belongs to the rose family, and the blossoms of a raspberry plant resemble miniature wild roses.
What’s happening outdoors now?
Records show that July is normally Minnesota’s warmest and sunniest month, heating the lakes up for the best swimming conditions and allowing corn to grow tall.
The surface water temperature of Lake Waconia has been close to 80 degrees F lately. Most field corn wasn’t knee high by the 4th; but that’s because of a cool, wet spring. Hollyhocks and the tawny daylily have begun blooming.
Native basswood trees continue displaying fragrant, creamy-white flowers. From the filtered light of the forest comes the plaintive “pee-a-wee” call of the eastern wood-pewee, and the short, insistent, robin-like phrases of the red-eyed vireo, repeated endlessly. Waterfowl are mostly all in a flightless condition. It’s nesting time for ruby-throated hummingbirds.
On July 11 a year ago
Deer flies and mosquitoes pestered us. We had a sunny day with a low temperature of 66 and a high of 88 degrees. This region had already experienced 17 days of 90 degrees or above in 2012.
The tan-brown lawn grass areas indicated that rain was needed. A good share of southern Minnesota field corn was pollinating, and the first corn tassels were observed in the Waconia area on July 1. Local sweet corn, grown by Mike Klingelhutz, just south of Waconia, was available on July 7.
Last July ended up being the hottest month in Minnesota’s recorded history.