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Recognized for its sweet fruits and pleasant tasting leaves, raspberry has been a cherished plant for hundreds of years. Native to many parts of Europe, North America, and western Asia, Rubus idaeus is an easily cultivated member of the Rose family.
This fast growing, dense bramble in the Rosaceae family has invasive roots and biennial thorny canes. It has compound pinnate leaves that grow in leaflets of 5-7 which are green on the topside and silvery on the bottom. It’s small white radial flowers grow on second year growth in the late spring, producing fruit in the summer and fall. Technically, the raspberry is not a berry at all, but an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a central core. It typically grows in forests sporadically, and more densely in open clearings and can tolerate a range of soils.
Raspberry produces canes that last two years, are sterile in their first year, and produce delicious berries in their second year. It is one of the most common species to colonize open sites following logging or fire. Red raspberry is delicious to humans, and many cultivars have been developed from the wild species. Animals including black bear and coyote also consume the juicy fruits. Since the flowers are almost always self-incompatible, this species relies on bees and other pollinators to produce fruit.
The raspberry plant is native to Europe and Northern Asia and is a member of the Rose family of plants. As a wild plant, Rubus idaeus typically grows in forests, forming open stands under a tree canopy, and denser stands in clearings. In the south of its native range (southern Europe and central Asia), it only occurs at high altitudes in mountains. The species name idaeus refers to its occurrence on Mount Ida in northwest Turkey. The United States is the world’s third-largest producer of raspberries. Although production occurs across much of the country, most of it is concentrated in Washington, California and Oregon. Washington State leads the nation in red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) production.
Raspberries were said to have been discovered by the Olympian gods themselves while searching for berries on Mount Ida. The first real records of domestication of raspberries comes from the writings of Palladius, a Roman agriculturist. By Medieval times it had a great many uses, including the juices which were used in paintings and illuminated manuscripts. King Edward the 1st (1272-1307) was said to be the first to call for mass cultivation of raspberries, whose popularity spread quickly throughout Europe. Teas of raspberry leaves were given to women of the Cherokee, Iroquois, and Mohawk nations in North America, and have earned approval of the authoritative British Herbal Compendium.
Raspberry leaves are generally drunk as a delicious raspberry leaf tea, with a flavor that resembles black tea. Red raspberry leaf is also popular in herbal infusion blends for both its taste and healthful qualities.
Raspberry leaves are among the most pleasant tasting of all the herbal remedies, with a taste much like black tea, without the caffeine.
Red Raspberry Leaf is an astringent, tonic, refrigerant, and parturient. It’s good for the circulation, and the leaves have a long use in pregnancy to strengthen and tone the tissues of the womb, assisting in contractions, and preventing hemorrhaging during pregnancy. As an astringent, it can be used to help diarrhea and leucorrhea, and regular consumption is thought by some to prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the stomach and colon. It can also ease mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, sore throats, and inflammation. It is also very high in anti-oxidants, which can help your cells, especially in the eyes, maintain integrity as you age. As a syrup, raspberry is said to be beneficial to the heart.