Saturday, July 18, 2009


A regret of my tiny urban "farm" is the limited amount of fruit I'm able to grow. I have raspberries, a gift from my friend Holly I believe the very first summer we were in the house (I had forgotten this, until she reminded me). They might be the first food I ever grew, and they are still going strong after nearly 25 years. One of my favorite aspects of cooking from the garden is the whole Little House on the Praire aspect-- puttin' up preserves, cannin' pumpkin and squash. I've even investigated the possibility of putting a root cellar in our basement.

I love making syrups and preserves, so every summer we end up with quarts and quarts of raspberry jam. This year I finally put in 3 blackberry canes and a gooseberry bush, but will probably not get fruit from them for a couple of years. Next year-- blueberries.

In the meantime, I've harvested almost 5 quarts of raspberries so far this year, a bounty due to my clever (if I do say so myself) use of spiral tomato stakes to as supports for the canes. Because of this, they're getting a lot of sun.

We also have an apple tree which has never produced more than one apple and usually loses all the new fruits a few days after appearing. This year they're hanging on; haven't given up hope yet that we'll get some actual apples. I may try my hand at vinegar if we do. In the meantime, the tree loses a large handful of apples every day. I've just been piling them in the dirt prior to dumping them in the compost, and then today got this bright idea: apple edging.

In the meantime, I'm on my third raspberry preserving task. Once I have another pint or two of the berries, I'll make syrup. Last week I made raspberry apricot jam (with sugar) and the week before the delicious and unusual preserves (no sugar) below.

Raspberry-Mango-Basil preserves
3 large ripe mangos
1 1/2 quarts fresh raspberries
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped fine

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. The raspberries should turn quite liquid. Continue boil at 220F/104C for ten minutes, stirring constantly (this will release the pectin and reduce the liquid). Remove from the burner and place a burner ring over the flame, turn the flame low and replace the pot. Continue simmering until fruit is reduced by two thirds (top picture); you should end up with one or two pints of preserves.

Don't use sugar in this recipe as it overwhelms the basil.

The flavor of this compote is indescribably complex-- tart raspberry followed by the sweet mango and a sweet basil after taste.

I used the mango pits and skins, which still had a lot of fruit on them, to make mango syrup-- boiled the discards in 3 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups sugar (bottom picture), then scraped the fruit off into the liquid and ran it through a hand mill.


  1. I think it is pretty cool that you still have that plant your friend gave you. I want blue berries too, but I'll settle for some urban foraging until I have real land.

  2. What's amazing is that I've managed to keep the things from taking over the yard. After 25 years, everyone in the neighborhood now has some of Holly's raspberry canes.