(This is part of a series of posts. For the first one see Tea Growing: Intro Post.)
CHAPTER TWO: Red Raspberry, Queen of Blood
In the summer of 2018 I purchased a bundle of five red raspberry plants. I happily planted them in a wet, low area of my back yard, on the far end from the blackberry and blueberry shrubs. And there, O reader, I completely forgot about them for about a month.
You’ve done it too! Work gets busy, life gets hectic, and the yard maybe gets a little overgrown. Maybe you’re preoccupied by how terribly your acorn squash plant experiment is growing. Maybe the other berry plants are doing so well you forget to check on the new kids. Maybe it rains so much you don’t want to wade through the little stream running across your patio. Maybe it’s so damn hot and humid you don’t even want to touch the knob of the back door.
AND MAYBE THEY WERE FINE WITH THAT.
I can’t wax affectionate enough about these hardy little shits.
While mowing down the literally 15-inch tall grass I’d been cited by the city over, I rediscovered these wee canes. What had been bare sticks were laden with cute green leaves, and what had been five plants were now sixteen flourishing canes. Pretty good for some year-one plants that had been dirted and forgotted! I cleared the soil around them, dropped some fertilizer and soil acidifier down, and applied a completely useless layer of mulch. Well, not completely useless, I suppose. It did prevent my dog from eating the fertilizer.
Apparently, I purchased an “everbearing” variety of red raspberry, which I have since learned produces fruit in the summer and in the fall. And that is the last time I’m typing “red raspberry.” The only real raspberries are red. Get over yourself, fruit community.
So my year-one plants produced a delightful summer crop, right around the same time as the blackberries. And I thought that was impressive enough, because I didn’t know “everbearing” raspberries existed and I wasn’t expecting fruit until 2019.
I’m writing this particular sentence on November 8, 2018: THEY STILL HAVEN’T STOPPED PRODUCING FRUIT.
These hardy little shits are going bonkers. Either they love the day-long sun they get, or maybe it’s the fertilizer and the acidic, wet soil, or maybe they’re so relieved to be clear of weeds and bugs they just want to thank me over and over with one to five ripe berries almost every morning. Whatever has them so happy, I hope it never stops. But this blog isn’t meant to be about my fucking fruit plants. This book is about growing tea!
I’ve developed a penchant for drinking raspberry leaf tea during my menstrual cycle. YOU WERE WARNED WITH THE TITLE OF THIS CHAPTER THAT THERE WOULD BE BLOOD. Didn’t take the hint? Well, there it is in the open now. I’m a woman. Women bleed for a few days right around once a month or so, generally speaking. The theory claims that raspberry leaf tea helps with cramps and other fun (not) symptoms of the menstrual cycle, and whether that’s scientifically a thing or not I have personally found it to be true. So I drink the leaf for a few days every month.
I didn’t quite make the connection that I had my own raspberry leaf tea sources in my backyard until my recently-spayed female Rottweiler started trying to eat the leaves off the plants. And then it hit me. I could harvest leaves off those plants myself, dry them, store them and use them to make raspberry leaf tea!
Everything I have read states that raspberry leaves should be harvested in the spring or summer, in the early morning to mid-morning hours when everything is dew-covered and green and perky. So, naturally, I made my first leaf harvest in November around 2 pm in the afternoon. I like to test the tried and true. Spoilers: usually they’re tried and true for a reason.
PRO TIP: When you harvest leaves for tea (especially raspberry leaves) you’ll want to gather a LOT more than you think you’ll need. This is because tea leaves are dried before being used in making tea. And whenever you remove water from the structure of a thing that normally holds water, the thing shrinks. Leaves shrink when they dry. They shrink a lot.