Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's In Season Sunday: Raspberries

As I am writing this, I am sitting by my kitchen window feeling the sweet summer breeze fill my room and my soul! Can you tell we have been a bit summer deprived in the beautiful Pacific Northwest this year? To celebrate the warm 80 degree day, I've decided to whip up a refreshing drink recipe to share with you. Today is What's in Season Sunday where I attempt to find local produce, prepare it is some way, and share some insight into where it was grown. This Sunday I am focusing on my favorite fruit, raspberries.

The minute I bite into a raspberry I am instantly brought back to being a child at my grandparent's house in eastern Washington. My grandpa was a hard working man and when us grandkids showed up he gave us a big a hug and a big coffee can to pick raspberries in. As a city kid, I didn't think of this as work believe it or not. There were so many ripe raspberries growing on the plants, the can filled up in no time. And, it was always fun sneaking a few. We also didn't complain much because I knew Grandma's raspberry jam would appear soon after.

This week while wondering Pike Place Market, I bought a half flat (6 pints) of freshly picked, local organic raspberries from Hayton Farms in the Skagit Valley near lovely Fir Island. This is a wonderful area of our state which has very productive farm lands. Farmers in Skagit County produce 300 million worth of crops, livestock, and dairy products. Over 90 different crops are planted in just this one county. The county also grows more tulips, daffodils, and iris than other county in the U.S. A very impressive brag sheet if you ask me! Since Skagit County maintains one of the largest and most diverse agricultural communities west of the Cascade mountain range, it is imperative that we preserve this treasure.

Have you been able to find local raspberries growing in your area? If so, buy them in bulk. Consider buying enough to last you a few months or even through the year. Buying berries in bulk is such a good way to go. If I would of purchased each of my pints separately this week my half flat would of amounted to $24! Instead it was $15. That is just $2.50 a pint for local, organic berries. A heck of a deal better than any grocery store could offer you. Eat them fresh, freeze them, make jam, or bake delightful treats. Whatever you do, get them fast. They'll only be in season for a couple more weeks! The following is the drink recipe I promised you. Agua frescas are drinks typically made with fruit, water, and sugar. They are popular in latin American countries and are delicious and refreshing on hot days. Enjoy!

Raspberry Agua Frescas

1 cup fresh/frozen raspberries
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Mint leaves
2 Lemon balm leaves
1 cup cold water

In a food processor or blender, pulse mint, lemon balm, and sugar together. Add cold water and blend until sugar dissolves (about a minute). Add the raspberries (I prefer to add frozen raspberries because it makes my drink that much colder if drinking right away). Add the cold water. Blend well. Strain through a fine sieve or cheese cloth to remove seeds if desired. Garnish with mint leaves and a raspberry. Serves 1-2.

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