The raspberry is the edible fruit of a plant species in the rose family. There are many types of raspberries, but the most common is the Rubus idaeus, also known as the classic red raspberry. This tart yet sweet fruit is often found in the center of the table in the form of a jam or at the finale of a meal over smooth vanilla ice cream. The ways to consume raspberries are endless. Personally, I enjoy these antioxidant rich morsels fresh out of the plastic container they are stored in. I consume them so fast that my mom buys two containers at a time. When I was younger, I used to put raspberries on my fingers and pretend they were little hats. It is very safe to say that I have an affinity for raspberries.
This summer my mom and I went to Green Bluff, a popular destination nestled in the foothills of Mount Spokane where many flock during the harvesting months to buy or pick produce, on a hunt for fruit. We acquired a box of peaches at an outdoor produce hut that had already been picked and were for sale. However, what I was really craving were raspberries so when we were paying for the peaches it made sense that I asked the lady working if they had any for sale.
She placed a small cardboard box on the table and said, “We don’t have any out here for sale, but we do have bushes over there and you can go pick them. Then they are charged by weight.” The lady pointed to two neat rows of raspberry bushes in the distance.
With my fresh-out-of-the box Reebok Club C 85s on my feet, I was not prepared to pick raspberries at all. My mom was reluctant at first, too, because she grew up in the Yakima Valley where her summers consisted of picking fruit, so she did not see picking raspberries as an enjoyable activity. Despite our hesitations, we decided to march over to the rows of bushes and pick some raspberries.
My mom and I began to walk down the rows hunting for the perfectly ripe raspberries. The fruit was not in plain sight; they were at the bottom of the bushes or deep within them. My mood about raspberry picking started to change. A red raspberry was a mouse and we were the cats trying to find it. This hunt was exhilarating.
As we were picking, my mom recounted stories about her experiences in the fields picking different crops. She told me that peaches were the worst because the fuzz from the peach would mix with the sweat of her hands and make her itchy. Apples and pears were the most back-breaking because of how heavy they were. On the other hand, since cherries were so light in weight, she had to pick more of them because her paycheck was based on how much produce she picked. Shortly after, my mom pulled out her phone and took a video of me picking the raspberries for my abuela. She told me how my grandmother spent most of her summers picking raspberries in Burlington, Washington, so my abuela would think it is funny seeing me pick them.
These stories made me realize that what I am doing for pleasure to satisfy my raspberry craving, for my grandparents, and even my parents growing up, this was a way of life. Their ability to put food on the table, to pay their bills, and to just provide for their family in general depended on how much produce they picked out in the fields. This produce was not for their consumption. Although they were occasionally allowed to bring it home, this produce was for the grocery store.
This is in contrast to the people who flock to places like Green Bluff to pick fruit and who see it as a fun family activity. My mom and I fell under this category of people that day.
After about 30 minutes, we decided to call it a day and go pay for our raspberries that we picked. I looked down at the box, and we had barely filled up one little corner. If we were getting paid for our work, this amount of berries would not even make us enough money to buy a loaf of bread. But these raspberries were mainly for my consumption. This experience was also a way to bond with my mom. The next time I am eating raspberries from that plastic container, I am going to think about where they came from. They came from people who lived on how much they picked that day. They came from people who do not see picking crops as a fun family activity.
They came from people like my abuela.
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