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Autumn Raspberries: Worth The Tantalizing Wait

Oct 25, 2011
Originally published on October 26, 2011 7:58 am

In a hurry-up world, the garden keeps its own time. Old-fashioned plants like raspberries, asparagus and rhubarb ask us to slow down and wait for the sweet reward they offer. Commentator Julie Zickefoose revels in the waiting.

I have a friend who lives up in the mountains of North Carolina who loves to give me wonderful plants. Usually Connie gives me native prairie plants, and I plop them in the meadow, and it's no big deal. But this year she gave me raspberries. Not just any raspberries. Golden raspberries.

Now, giving someone five raspberry plants is kind of like giving someone a pony. You don't just plop raspberries in a meadow. You have to dig them a bed with nice rich soil and that bed has to have edging all around it, because raspberries root when the tips of their canes touch the ground. So you've got to make them a home where they will be content to stay.

I dug and dug and turned soil and threw the Virginia creeper out and made a nice fluffy bed. Then I dug a trench around the bed for the edging which still had to be bought. Then I collapsed from the heat and exertion, and had to be put in my own fluffy bed.

Two days later I pulled the raspberry plants out of their pots, smiling with satisfaction at the new white feeder roots they'd grown. I planted them in their new bed, piled fresh straw around them, and watered them down. Now all I have to do is wait a year for them to flower and fruit.

The raspberries went in right beside the asparagus, which my husband and I planted in 1992. Wanting to let the plants get established, we didn't harvest any for the first three years. But oh, the meals we've had since.

My father told me something that has stuck with me for 40 years. A neighbor was watching him as he planted dwarf fruit trees in our yard. "How long will it take for them to bear fruit?" he asked. "Oh, five, maybe six years," Dad replied. "Oh, I wouldn't bother planting fruit trees. I wouldn't want to wait that long," the neighbor said.

Dad was quiet for a moment. "You're already waiting. Might as well have some fruit to look forward to."

I look out from the kitchen window at the tidy little raspberry bed, new lime-green leaves just peeking up over the straw mulch. And I'm baking a fine golden raspberry tart in my mind, pulling the chilled dough up around a double handful of fruit, sprinkling a little sugar over the top, popping it in the oven to bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Already waiting.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From the Rolling Stones to Emily Dickinson, who once wrote of fall: The morns are meeker than they were. The nuts are getting brown. The berry's cheek is plumper. The rose is out of town.

Well, writer Julie Zickefoose is no stranger to a plump berry. She has this essay on waiting for hers.

JULIE ZICKEFOOSE: I have a friend who lives up in the mountains of North Carolina, who loves to give me wonderful plants. Usually, Connie gives me native prairie plants, and I plop them in the meadow and it's no big deal. But this year, she gave me raspberries - not just any raspberries, golden raspberries. Now, giving someone five raspberry plants is kind of like giving someone a pony. You don't just plop raspberries in a meadow. You have to dig them a bed with nice, rich soil. And that bed has to have edging all around it because raspberries root when the tips of their canes touch the ground.

So you've got to make them a home where they'll be content to stay. I dug and dug and turned soil, and threw the Virginia creeper out and made a nice, fluffy bed. Then I dug a trench around the bed for the edging, which still had to be bought. Then I collapsed from the heat and exertion, and had to be put in my own fluffy bed. Two days later, I pulled the raspberry plants out of their pots, smiling with satisfaction at the new, white, feeder roots they'd grown.

I planted them in their new bed, piled fresh straw around them, and watered them down. Now, all I have to do is wait a year for them to flower and fruit. The raspberries went right in beside the asparagus, which my husband and I planted in 1992. Wanting to let the plants get established, we didn't harvest any for the first three years. But, oh, the meals we've had since.

My father told me something that has stuck with me for 40 years. A neighbor was watching him as he planted dwarf fruit trees in our yard. How long will it take for them to bear fruit? he asked. Oh five, maybe six, years, Dad replied. Oh, I wouldn't bother planting fruit trees. I wouldn't want to wait that long, the neighbor said. Dad was quiet for a moment. You're already waiting; might as well have some fruit to look forward to.

I look out from the kitchen window at the tidy, little raspberry bed, new lime-green leaves just peeking up over the straw mulch. And I'm baking a fine golden raspberry tart in my mind, pulling the chilled dough up around a double handful of fruit, sprinkling a little sugar over the top, popping it in the oven to bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Already waiting.

BLOCK: Julie Zickefoose lives and gardens in Whipple, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.