Dietribes: Raspberries

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• First thing's first: a raspberry is a bramble, or any plant belonging to the fierce-sounding genus Rubus. Raspberries are cousins with other bramble fruits, including blackberries. Also part of the diverse family Rosaceae are roses, strawberries, apples, pears, apricots and peaches.

• Raspberries and blackberries are classified as fruit, but are of a slightly different variety known as aggregate fruit (clusters of individual sections called druplelets, each containing one seed). Over 200 different known species of raspberries, though only two species are grown on a large scale.

• The discovery of raspberries is tied to Greek legend. According to myth, raspberries were discovered while the Olympian gods were searching for berries on Mount Ida. (The Latin name Rubus idaeus means “bramble bush (of) Ida").

• The first writings of raspberry cultivation appear around 4 AD, but the people of Troy (modern day Turkey), were the first to note an appreciation of the raspberry fruit, though the plant itself was more important for medicinal uses long before it became a snack item.

• The raspberry in "Blowing a raspberry," comes from the Cockney rhyming slang "raspberry tart" and ... well, you can figure it out. The act may be vulgar ... unless you turn it into science (like this video of a man blowing raspberry in slow motion).

• The disapproving act of blowing a raspberry also has a connection to the infamous Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards, which parody the Oscars by giving awards to the worst films.

• If you like the taste of raspberries, you're in good company: so does the cosmos. According to scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, the Milky Way could taste like raspberries.

• Like many of the foods featured on Dietribes, raspberries have plenty of medicinal benefits on the side. The berries contain minerals like iron, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium which help enrich the blood by carrying iron to and from parts of the body. From English herbalists to Native Americans, there's also a belief that drinking raspberry juice or tea helps relieve nausea, particularly in relation to pregnancy. Gargling with raspberry juice may also relieve a sore throat while rubbing joints with the canes of the fruit might help pain (if you've tried it, let us know!)

• Black raspberries, native to North America, contain an extremely dark pigment that makes them a useful coloring agent. In fact, the USDA stamp on meat was made with black raspberry dye for many years.

• The height of raspberry season may have passed us by (the middle of July, which is when the Minneapolis Raspberry Festival is held), but there's always time to enjoy this tasty fruit. How do you Flossers take your razzies?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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September 22, 2010 - 7:42am
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