Summer is fruit time in the Ozarks. The purpose of flowers is to produce fruit. Black raspberries are one of the first great eating fruits.
Blackberries have lots of advocates. The canes grow up and over the fences along parts of the road luring people to cruise slowly along stopping to pick them.
Both blackberries and raspberries produce fruit on the canes the plants grew last summer. That is why the plants become such thickets. If the canes are mowed down this summer, there is no fruit next year.
The flowers are simple affairs of five white petals with a nest of stamens in the center. They are grouped in the rose family. Black raspberries bloom earlier in the spring.
Luscious fruit requires lots of rain. Last year the fruit dried on the canes. This year is a bumper crop as there were no late frosts, only cool weather and rain started in at the right time.
The future berries begin as tiny caps of spheres. The caps are green and grow slowly in size. Finally the green begins to turn red.
It’s hard to tell when a blackberry is ripe. The berries seem to stay red for weeks gradually becoming darker. Every red tinge must be gone before the berry is ripe.
Black raspberries are much easier. They do stay red for a long time but turn black quickly when they do. A touch on a ripe berry drops it into your hand.
Blackberry canes are bristling with thorns that catch on anyone within reach. The thorns are stiff and sharp scratching exposed arms or even those under lightweight shirts.
Black raspberries have fewer thorns. They are stiff and grab hold but the reduced number reduces the damage.
Tempting as it is to eat handfuls of black raspberries, a bumper crop is overwhelming. Although the guides say many other creatures eat the berries, most are left to dry on the canes around here so we pick lots.
Handfuls go in breakfast pancakes. More handfuls go in cakes or on cheesecakes. The back raspberry season is over too soon.
Fortunately black raspberries freeze well. Spread out on a cookie sheet each berry freezes individually. Poured into a freezer bag, they stay separate enough to remove only some at a time.
Summer may be fruit time in the Ozarks but those frozen black raspberries are a real treat when winter cold grips the country.