Now that the rains have rolled away, we're left with blinding heat and a surfeit of berries. Well, not strawberries, which suffered through our wet spring and whose season is over anyway. Raspberry and blueberry bushes are drooping with fruit (a picking list is below) — including at Poverty Lane Orchards, which is just down the street from me and where I picked some earlier this week. In a sunny field given over entirely to raspberries, there was fruit in every state of being — hard and coral colored, bright red and sweet, and some berries so dark and ripe that they were melting on the bush. I watched a toddler sit down in he grass and eat his family's entire harvest when they weren't looking. It was a raspberry idyll.
With a pile of berries on my counter, I resolved to bake — never a good idea for me — and tried to decide between a simple French-style tart or the more cake-like English model. I looked in cookbooks, at websites and blogs, and even called a cousin. Since I hate following recipes to the letter — and hence, am an awful baker — I combined the finer points of all of those recipes in my head for (what I thought would be) the perfect raspberry-peach-almond tart.
The dough was easy enough. Feeling savvy, I rolled out some almond paste and layered it on top of my pastry dough to keep it from getting soggy. On top of that, I arranged an artful spiral of peach slices, followed by a swirl of fresh raspberries. I brushed the entire thing with egg white, sprinkled on what I called "almond dust," (almonds pulverized in the food processor) and slid it into the oven for 45 minutes.
Flavor-wise, the tart was tasty enough — the dough was flaky, the almond undercurrents weren't overly strong and the fruit took on deep flavors from roasting. Presentation-wise, though, it was a disaster and almost painful to look at. My raspberries shriveled to fractions of their former selves, and the peach slices looked dry and sad. The egg white turned mucusy in places. The bits of almond looked suspiciously like minced garlic. I took a picture anyway.
There are tons of places around to pick fresh berries. The Intervale's Adam's Berry Farm is not hosting pick-your-own this season, but I've compiled a short list of farms that are. Just don't do as I did. If you Google 'raspberry tart,' you'll find dozens of enviable recipes, including this chocolate-almond one from Bon Appetit I hope to make someday (and not screw up). I'll use my next batch to do what I do best: Infuse some vodka.
Charlotte Berry Farm, 4702 Ethan Allen Hwy., Charlotte. 425-3652. Blueberries are in full force at this berry paradise, and the last of the raspberries are still lurking. "Remember to look up under the outer leaves of the red raspberry plants to find the hidden berries!" suggests a writer on the farm's Facebook page.
Champlain Orchards, 3597 Route 74 West, Shoreham. 897-2777. Tart cherries have waned, but organic raspberries are plentiful.
Isham Family Farm, 3517 Oak Hill Rd., Essex. 872-1525. This diverse farm hosts pick-your-own raspberries and blueberries.
Nye's Berryland, 1452 Plains Rd., Georgia. 524-4705. "Currently picking raspberries," according to an outgoing message.
Poverty Lane Orchards, 98 Poverty Lane, Lebanon, N.H. 603-448-1511. Though it's known for apples, this orchard has an expansive raspberry patch.
Random Gardens, 177 Random Rd., Calais. 371-9808. Raspberry picking on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, dependent on weather and ripening.