Crimson gold

I may be overdoing it with the raspberries.

It’s just that they’re everywhere, literally ripe for the picking, low-hanging fruit, all the clichés. I can trudge through the back lanes of my neighbourhood and emerge with a couple of yogurt containers’ worth of berries in under an hour, my fingers stained red like I’m some urban foraging vigilante — hey! Another cliché for you: caught red-handed. Not that anyone’s guarding them, not that anyone owns them; they’ve just colonized the spaces between the backyards, brilliant flashes of red weighing down their branches and beckoning to me: if you don’t take us, who will?

I can’t not. I can’t rest for thinking about all that goodness, fret about those berries darkening and dropping to the ground, all that waste.

I’m not alone in my obsession. “Thinking of raspberry foraging tonight,” M texted to me on Saturday. We cycled to the latest jackpot: a different friend’s massive garden, bordered on three sides by raspberry bushes, and she’s too busy to harvest them (Don't worry; I’m paying her back in frozen berries and jam). Like shooting fish in a barrel. Metaphorically, obviously — I would never shoot fish in a barrel.

We got talking over the fence to of the neighbour, who — obviously — happens to raise Monarch butterflies. He talked to us at length about milkweed and chrysalises (I just looked up “plural of chrysalis”) and showed us his monarchs in various stages of growth. I love that, all over this city, all over this world, people are passionate about, fantastically expert about, so many different, tiny things. “It’s like Christmas,” said M, after making arrangements with the butterfly man to come back in the fall and get some of the apples from the tree in front.

I eat plenty right off the bushes, freeze more to use later in smoothies and baking. I’ve mashed 12 cups’ worth of into a crimson, jewelled mess of pulp and seeds, and I may well mash another 6 cups worth before I’m done. In a few weeks, M will show me how to make jam. And we will pick windfall apples and make sauce and cider too, and I’m thinking about a late-summer raspberry tart — you know, in a flan pan, some kind of custard vanilla base, the very best berries on top. Like the proverbial cherry, marking the height of summer and easing our way to fall.