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How to make the most of summer's rambling raspberries

Even as they take over the garden, the versatility of raspberries on the plate is hard to match.

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One of the best things I did in my garden a few years ago was to plant raspberry bushes. It was also one of the worst things I did.

I'll explain. But first a bit of personal history.

My father was the total gardener. He supplied not only our family, but much of the neighborhood with bouquets of cut flowers, vegetables, fruits, and berries. And did we have berries! Does Cher have tattoos? We were buried in berries – strawberries, blackberries, currants, blueberries. Even gooseberries. But raspberries were everyone's favorite.

Plump and red, they dangled like a sultan's treasury of pigeon-blood rubies on 5-foot-high canes protected by menacing thorns. It was my job to harvest them. No problem. I was brave. I was 5.

Early in the morning dew, I'd venture out in the backyard and, like St. George confronting the dragon, but without a suit of armor and armed only with a long bamboo pole, I'd stealthily creep up on the unsuspecting stalks. Then, attack! A few deft whacks and it was raining raspberries. Quickly gathering up the berried treasure I'd hightail it back to the house where the breakfast table was already set with bowls of cornflakes and a bottle of cold, heavy cream. Ambrosia.

Over the decades, much of our land was sold, and our bountiful berry patch finally succumbed to landscaping and an in-ground swimming pool.

So, eager to relive those daring days of yore, I planted a hedgerow of raspberries when I moved five years ago.

A local nursery sold foot-long, rooted raspberry stalks. And not just the usual red, yellow, and black; every bearing and fall-fruiting variety. I had to have some of each.

The first year they rested, the next year they ran, the third year they raced! They invaded my rhubarb, my potato patch, and now, I suspect, they're plotting to advance toward my tomatoes and cukes.

I could go up to the garden in cover of darkness with a machete and hack them all down, I just don't have the heart. I love them too much. And besides, my neighbors are counting on them to top their cornflakes and cold, heavy cream!

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