Paris Goodnight: Black raspberries and the memories they bring

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 12, 2022

Maybe we all try to leave a little something behind for those who follow us. Even if it’s just crumbs, a kernel of truth or a memory to pass on, that’s  nothing to take for granted.

One spot in my backyard is what I’ve come to regard as the Rev. Eldon Wadsworth Memorial Black Raspberry Patch. Each time I look over those plants, I remember back to when my former pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Kannapolis provided me four or five plants not long after I moved back to Salisbury.

From those small beginnings, the plants slowly but surely took on a life of their own and have very nearly taken over the better part of a backyard section that the previous owners of our house used as a garden. I don’t mind the black raspberries spreading, though they are getting a little too close to the rose bushes put in as another memory garden from plants passed down from my dad and earlier from his mother.

The thing about black raspberries is they’re not quite as sweet as red raspberries, and they don’t have the tart taste of a blackberry, which are also starting to ripen as the wild ones sprout in some sections. Black raspberries are somewhere between the two.

But black raspberries seem to be the only thing that has ever really grown like I had hoped they would, which is bigger and better each year without much work from me and certainly not any watering. If they get any moisture, it’s the rain from the sky and goodness knows we haven’t had much of that lately in my neck of the woods. I guess they get just the right amount of sunlight too, since the trees at the back of our yard produce shade a little earlier each year as they grow taller and thicker.

The red raspberries came from the previous owner of our house, who told me when they were done each year to just mow them down and they’d come back the next season just as good. What I didn’t realize until later on was the idea apparently was to mow them down as soon as the fruit was gone in the early summer. Unfortunately, the first year we were in the house, I waited until the end of the summer and then mowed them down, destroying all the growth for the next year. I’ve tried to baby them back into shape for years since then, even moving them to what I thought was a more hospitable spot. But no luck.

I’m sure professionals like Darrell Blackwelder could easily spot why the red raspberries aren’t producing like they’re supposed to, but accidental farmers like me tend to try to discover the truths of the garden on my own.

I planted a few strawberry plants in a separate spot some years back and always said if they took over the whole garden, I wouldn’t mind. They nearly did that at one point until I had to abandon them for a few years and they nearly went extinct. But a few hardy plants remained and I’ve been able to nurse them back to a little patch over the past few years and now they have an established spot.

But as I picked a few cups full of the black raspberries that are fully ripe now, I remembered back to Eldon and his kind gift of the plants all those years ago, like I always do when checking the harvest or the plants.

One thing I was always struck by was the fact that I don’t remember the exact words of his sermons, or the particular lessons that he taught us, but I remember how he lived his life and the way he and his wife, Eva, conducted themselves. If anyone can look back on someone else’s life fondly as I do of theirs, it seems to me that’s all you’d ever want people to do after you’re gone.

So maybe it’s not wealth or wisdom that we should try to leave to the next generation, maybe it’s just something simple that keeps on giving, like black raspberry plants. But then there’s also Eva’s banana pudding recipe, with that one key secret ingredient. But that’s a tale for another day.

Paris Goodnight is interim editor of the Salisbury Post.