It was so fun taking in the raspberry harvest last week with the National Processed Raspberry Council in Lynden, Washington. You know how much I love learning more about how we grow foods, and raspberries happen to be one of my favorites.
We all gathered together at the Van Mersbergen farm, and learned about how raspberries are harvested. People have been farming raspberries in this part of Washington State for decades—it’s one of the three best raspberry farming locations in the world (along with Chile and Poland). A the Van Mersbergen farm, we were surrounded by raspberry bushes—the air was fragrant with them. Here’s one of their sons helping to harvest the berries.
The farmers here invented a machine to harvest berries, which now the entire world uses. It gently shakes the raspberry bushes, which fall into metal slats that feed a conveyor belt. Then the raspberries fall gently into these flats. Here I am, standing on top of the raspberry harvester, surveying the raspberry fields.
I ate pounds of raspberries, fresh off the vine during my trip, such as these gems. Raspberries are very fragile, making them difficult to grow and harvest. The raspberry farmers talked about what a difficult task it is to grow them, but that’s what they do in these parts. Every time you buy raspberries, just think about how perishable and fragile this precious fruit really is, and thank those farmers!
We also visited Samson Estates, a local raspberry farmer who also makes wine out of raspberries. This raspberry dessert wine is an award winner! It was so delicious, pretty and fragrant—like perfume!
We toured the raspberry processing plant at Rader Farms. The raspberries are harvested in the region—the farms are adjacent to the plants—and then they are transported a very short distance to the processing plants. That way they are picked at their ripe, gorgeous best. The berries are quickly cooled down in huge coolers, so they don’t deteriorate. And then they go down an assembly line where they are quickly washed and frozen with a zap of liquid nitrogen (shown here).
For our last dinner on the raspberry tour, we stopped by the incredible Twofiftyflora in Bellingham. It was truly an amazing space—an old historic building retrofitted into a pop-up restaurant. We had a stellar farm to table menu.
Our last stop on the raspberry farm tour was to visit Enfield Farms. The two sons are pictured here (gray and red t-shirts) with their spouses, who are part of the family business, helping with marketing and plant breeding. The Enfields have one of the largest farms in the region, with their own hi tech processing plant and even breeding program. They are responsible for a new breed of raspberries (natural breeding—not GMO) that does really well in these parts called Wakefield. They are experimenting with even newer breeds of raspberries you may be finding in your supermarket some day soon, too.
At the Enfield Farms processing plant, I snapped this video of the gorgeous raspberries going down the line.
- 3 packages (6 ounces) raspberries
- 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper
- 4 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon mashed garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, toasted (toasting is optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 teaspoon sugar
- Combine raspberries, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño pepper, lime juice, salt, garlic, cumin and black pepper in a large bowl.
- Mash gently with a whisk or potato masher to release berry juices, leaving large pieces of raspberry in the salsa. Add sugar to taste.
- Chill one hour for flavors to blend. Adjust salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Serve with chips, or over fish or poultry.
For more information on raspberries, as well as lots of fabulous recipes, visit www.redrazz.org.