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berriesIn the garden I did no crime.

–Tori Amos

The raspberry bush has been sputtering out berries this summer and I’ve been racing the birds to get them.  It’s our relatively peaceful version of The Hunger Games. Victori spolia.

Did you know that the raspberry fruit is not a true berry? Neither did I until I read a report from Cornell Univeristy. The fruit is apparently an “aggregate of many individual drupelets” with each drupelet being “anatomically analogous to a cherry.”

Who knew?

My garden raspberries are different from the ones I buy at the store. They are sun-warmed, sweeter, and burstier.  Each of their drupelets is an explosion of sunlight, frogsong, and butterfly wings on the tongue. They have virtually no shelf life. Frogsongs fade fast when plucked from the earth; you must eat them while their echos still vibrate to taste the music.

Berries in general are highly perishable. There’s a significant loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants within just a couple days of harvest. So I’ve been inventing ways to infuse my cells with berry goodness as often as possible.  Here are just a few of my favorite berry treats.

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While they need no accompaniment, sometimes it’s fun to let them frolic with friends.  It’s really fun to sing along with Tori Amos’ Raspberry Swirl as I spin them around in a blender.  I toss in strawberries, a squeeze of lemon, a squirt of lime, and a splash of cranberry juice and grape juice.

This concotion makes yummy popsicles.  I call them Raspberry Zingers.

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Sometimes I throw in a little peach to a get different texture.  After filling the popsicle molds, I add a dallop of yogurt and a dash of milk to whatever is left in the blender to make a smoothie.

Fun fact: The phytonutrients in raspberries and strawberries have anti-inflammatory properties when consumed regularly (about three times a week).

Another fun way to get my berry bliss on and to make myself feel incredibly fancy in the process is with “spa water.”

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The idea is to send sliced fruit floating in water for hours to infuse the water with flavor. I’ve been experimenting with variations, but so far my favorite is sliced up strawberries, squished raspberries, cucumber, a little squirt of lime (or sometimes lime slices), and fresh mint.  This week the pineapple basil is making a spectacular comeback after the rain we’ve had, so I added a few leaves. It’s tasty!

Fun fact: Raspberries are rich in vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin K.  They also contain folate, vitamin E, and potassium.

A year and nine months ago I made the switch from omnivore to herbivore.  The transition was a grueling process.  While I continued to eat milk-based products, I gave up eggs.  I learned a lot about food along the way.  For example, eggs and other animal byproducts lurk hidden in foods that one would think are entirely non-animal. A case in point: castoreum is an ingredient used in many raspberry and vanilla products.  It is made from the oil that beavers produce in their nether regions (i.e., beaver butt juice). This additive may be cleverly disguised as “natural flavors” in the product’s list of ingredients.  Not something I wanted to think about when drinking a vanilla crème soda….

It took several months to figure out what to eat and what to avoid.  Eventually I managed to get the vegetarian thing on automatic.

Now I’m facing another vertical learning curve with food. A few weeks ago I went to the doctor because of a couple allergic reactions I was having.  One reaction was to poison ivy and the other was to “God only knows what,” according to my allergist.  He wasn’t too worried about the unidentified allergen because it responded well to Benadryl. However, I found out while I was at the doctor that I’m vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficient.  And so the vegetarian saga continues. My doctor prescribed prescription-strength vitamin D and a weekly shot of B12.  I’m not crazy about the idea of taking vitamins; I’d rather get my nutrients from the food I eat.   And the thought of having to get a weekly shot of a vitamin didn’t work at all in my head.

“Can’t I just go sit in the sun and drink milk?” I whined.

As it turns out, I’d have to drink about four cups of milk a day to get my RDA of B-12. That’s way more milk drinking than I’m willing to do on a daily basis.

I reluctantly agreed to take the vitamin D on a short-term basis, but I said heck no to the weekly B-12 shots. Realistically vitamins, enriched soymilk, and fortified cereal aren’t viable options – I don’t like any of these things well enough to eat them on a regular basis.  Red Star Nutritional Yeast – too complicated.  I bought some three weeks ago and have yet to use it.  I need something motivating that I’ll actually eat. So I’m back to doing food research.  It turns out that shellfish are one the best food sources for B12.  Three ounces of oysters provide over 1000% DV of B-12. I’ll be adding a smidgeon of oysters to my weekly diet until I can figure out a better solution.

Any vegetarian readers out there who can offer up some ideas? How are you getting your B-12?

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