Wild Raspberry are native to most of the world and this delicious and abundant fruit is full of the health benefits of its cultivated varieties. The summer is now nearing its end and our thoughts turn to reaping the benefits of nature’s wild harvest that appears all around us. This year 2013 is going to be a bumper crop for most soft fruits. One need only go into the local woods and see the first plant that is readily available to us which is the wild raspberry. Its spread is now being encouraged by the Forestry Commission in the UK by them planting it in virgin wood areas. Wild Raspberry is smaller than many of its cultivars but it is well worth the effort to pick it as the taste is absolutely incredible. Scientific analysis of wild fruits show that they contains higher level of antioxidant phytonutrients than their cultivated cousins.
Health Benefits of Wild Raspberries.
Wild Raspberries are not only delicious, but are low in calories and high in anti-oxidants. Wild Raspberries have quite high levels of phytochemicals. Wild Raspberries contain ellegic acid, which prevents damage to cell membranes by neutralizing free radicals. Wild Raspberries flavonoid content which includes quercetin, kaempferol and cyaniin are classified as anthocyanins. These give raspberries their vivid colors.
Anthocyanins give raspberries their antioxidant properties, and some antimicrobial ones. Research has shown that the antioxidant compounds in raspberries are anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-degenerative, which means they offer protection from many chronic conditions.
Interestingly xylitol is extracted from wild raspberries. Xylitol is usually made from birch bark and is used as a sugar substitute. The health benefits of this low calorie sugar substitute are well known. It absorbs more slowly than sugar and can be used by diabetics.
Wild Raspberries are a source of vitamin C, Vitamin A and E, and have some beta carotene. Wild Raspberries have a high ORAC value of about 4900 per 100 grams. The fruit contains nice amounts of minerals such as potassium, manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. They are rich in B-complex and vitamin k.
Picking the Wild Raspberries
Picking any fruit from the wild you can guarantee that it is totally organic and picking it yourself you can see exactly any environment influences that it might have had during its growth, Wild raspberries are no different than any other fruit. Stay away from picking either at road sides due to petrol chemical residues and also in heavily used dog walking areas due to the call of nature. It takes a bit of time but can be used as fun day out for the family and many hands make light work! When Are Raspberries in Season you may ask this varies dependant on where you live but in general in the UK it is the beginning of August. the best policy to have identified a good spot for them near you earlier in the summer and go back and check on how they are ripening from the end of July on-wards. Wild Raspberries are a very delicate fruit so rather than bruise them when cleaning them by rinsing them in water; which would rupture the fruit and wash away some of the fruit juice, it is best to inspect them whilst picking and avoid any fruits that show signs of mould or insect infestation.
Nearly all wild raspberries have some degree of mould on them when ripe. This mould gives them a slight bloom and is not harmful to humans. As modern research into conditions like IBS blames over sanitisation of food as a mayor contributory factor in its increase. By over cleaning we are killing not only the harmful bacteria that could prove to be possible pathogens but also the good bacteria that our intestines need to function correctly. So as long as you have picked your fruit in a low pollution area there is no need to wash them when they appear to be disease free.
When going foraging the same practical considerations apply wear proper footwear and as Wild Raspberries have thorns it is advisable to wear thick trousers. Take care when picking not to damage the plant and only pick fruit that is properly ripened. You can tell when a wild raspberry is ready by gently pulling the fruit away from the stalk if it comes away readily the fruit is ready. There is also a slight change in colour to a more purplish pink than the bright red of the immature fruit.
Process the fruit as soon as you get home as air born moulds may have turned some of the fruits even in the time that it takes you to get back home especially on a warm day.
Processing the Wild Raspberries
Whenever you cook a fruit you start to lose some of the health benefits that are available in the raw fruit so you should bare this in mind when processing your fruit. Try to use recipes that avoid boiling the fruit for too long. The secret of good jam is to evaporate the water off the fruit as quickly as possible which does destroy a lot of the antioxidants so you may wish to freeze your fruit for winter use. The same issues of high heat killing the nutritional values of the fruit apply to cordials and syrups so look for recipes that heat the sugar before adding to the fruit and boiling for the minimum time period.
Wild Raspberry syrup
Fruit coulis or syrup is cooked for the lowest time period and can be frozen to extend its shelf life and can be defrosted and used as a base for nourishing drinks during the winter months when the family are suffering from season colds and flus.
It is vest to freeze them in small amounts for this purpose in doses for one person. Use either a large ice cube maker or small containers so that you only defrost what you need at the time to avoid wasting this wonderful bounty from nature.
Below is a recipe for making raspberry coulis which can be frozen and later used as a base for syrups.
Raspberry coulis recipe
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 lb fresh raspberries
1 Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the sugar dissolves completely, about 5 minutes.
2 Put the raspberries and the sugar syrup in a blender and puree.
3 Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
4 The sauce keeps well, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and freezes perfectly for several months.