Origins of a Summer Raspberry Parfait

Begin with a layer of berries so delicate and fresh that they melt instantly into the yogurt beneath.

Delicious, for sure, but what makes these raspberries special has its roots, quite literally, alongside a steep road in the Colorado mountains.

This parfait, you see, began with a bush.

And some baskets.

Saturday morning cyclists huffed past us as we bent over, just off the pavement. “What are you picking…..?” some called out as they whizzed downhill, their question trailing off, lost in the distance by the time we had the chance to look up and call out our answer.


The practice of gleaning, of gathering the leftovers after the harvest, goes back to biblical times, when the Deutoronomic Code instructed farmers to leave the corners of their plots unharvested, for the fingers of hungry “widows, strangers and orphans.”

Our bush being wild, however, I suppose we were gatherers moreso than gleaners, unless we were gleaning from the bears.

Gathering, too, is an activity with ancient roots. Our species was doing it before we were human, even. And there is some deep genetic satisfaction to be derived from rooting out the ripest berries, popping one into the mouth, two into the basket. Growing up in New England, there was one particular house on the way to Salisbury Beach—a front yard strung with bird-proof netting that contained a mass of blueberry bushes, and huge ripe berries. $5 for a quart, paid for by stuffing bills through the slot in a locked wooden box. August trips to the beach meant handfuls of blueberries to be eaten directly from the fridge, “Heather, close the refrigerator door, you’re wasting energy!” for the following few days.

Summertime tastes like berries. What kinds can you pick, wherever you are, and where do they grow wild?

Anatomy of a Summer Raspberry Parfait:

One glass, one spoon.

Raspberries. I suggest wild ones, because then you’ll have the excuse to go exploring in the roadside bushes with a few friends, and because it’s more fun to eat them by the handfull, or heaping spoonfull, which is hard to do when faced with the exorbitant price of organic raspberries at, say, Whole Foods.


Add chopped walnuts or granola too, as you wish.

Enjoy. Perhaps while watching the first few minutes of Agnes Vardas’ deliciously offbeat French documentary, “The Gleaners and I,” courtesy youtube.

2 thoughts on “Origins of a Summer Raspberry Parfait

  1. Lovely! And the film clip as well. I love the begining of this recipe: “one glass, one spoon.”

    In the NYT, Amanda Hesser wrote on the pleasures of raspberry vinegar added to sparkling water to drink in the summer.

    How embarressed were my brother & I when my father used to glean the Times from trashcans in NY…

  2. The blackberries will be ripe on the coast of Oregon by mid-August… I ate them when I rode down the coast in 2005. The blueberries are ripe at the Canadian Boundry Waters right now… They weren’t ready when I canoed for a few weeks in 2002 and 2003. The elderberries are ripe in Boulder right now… and the raspberries in the Colorado mountains are ripe too, of course.

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