We usually pick the first ripe garden raspberries in early July in the Twin Cities area. Because raspberries are quite fragile and perishable, making it difficult to market them widely, they're especially valuable as a home garden fruit. They're easy to grow if you have a sunny location. And here in Minnesota the wild red raspberry is also one of the most common shrubs, especially in the northern two-thirds of the state in open woodlands and thickets, giving outdoor adventurers the chance to pick this great-tasting fruit in the field.

Red raspberries are about 84 percent water but they also contain vitamins A and C along with minerals including potassium. The raspberry fruit is an aggregate — each of the berry's little bumps is a tiny fruit itself, complete with a seed and fleshy covering. The berries should be picked as soon as they can be easily slipped off the core without breaking the texture of the berry.

Raspberries are important summer food for wildlife. Grouse, ring-necked pheasants, gray catbirds, northern cardinals, American robins and brown thrashers are just a few of the dozens of bird species that relish this fruit. The berries are also popular with chipmunks, raccoons, cottontail rabbits, both gray and red foxes, and black bears.

The English name "raspberry" comes from the thorny canes that will "rasp" your legs when you walk through a growth of these shrubs. The thorny brambles can make for impenetrable thickets where birds, rabbits and other animals find relative security.

Jim Gilbert's Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota.