The raspberry's ambrosial flavor is at its best au naturel, served with a dusting of sugar or bathed in thick heavy cream. It also can be eaten with the fingers straight from the garden. An exquisite bouquet, a subtle flavor and a gentle crunch add to its mystery - and, so rich in vitamin C, raspberries are good for you, too.

Transform them into a rich raspberry jam: make a delicate creme de cassis-accented sherbet or bake them in an elegant fresh tart. RASPBERRY TARTS

Crust: 1/4 pound unsalted butter or margarine 10 tablespoons sugar Pinch of salt Rind of 1 lemon Juice of 1/2 lemon 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 1/2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder Filling: 2 tablespoons raspberry jam 2 pints fresh raspberries or 1 pint raspberries and 5 freestone peaches Confectioner's sugar

Whip together the butter or margarine and the sugar. Add the salt, lemon rind, lemon juice and vanilla.

Work the flour and baking powder into the above ingredients with a food processor, mixer or your hands. Wrap in waxed paper and let stand in refrigerator overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375.

Take one third of the dough and press it into the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Then press one third of the dough into the sides of the pan. Brush the bottom with raspberry jam.

Spread all the raspberries over the bottom of the crust. (If using the peach-raspberry combination, peel the peaches and slice in crescent shapes.Arrange in the spring form. Cover with the raspberries.)

Cover the fruit with a lattice crust, and then with the remaining dough make a snake around the edge attaching the lattice top to the sides.

Return to oven and bake 45 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. When cool remove from spring form and serve. RASPBERRY CASSIS SHERBET

(Makes 1 quart) 1 1/2 quarts fresh raspberries 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons kosher salt 2 tablespoons creme de cassis liqueur

Eliminate the seeds from the raspberries by putting the berries through a food mill. Place the puree in a metal bowl.

Add the sugar and lemon. Set over an ice bath filled with water and kosher salt. Using an electric mixer beat the puree several minutes until the sugar dissolves. Cover, place in the freezer and let freeze. At one half hour intervals remove from the freezer and beat to break up ice crystals. After the second or third beating add the liqueur, beat again and serve when frozen. If, when the sherbet is frozen, you want to add more of a hint of cassis place a teaspoon of liqueur on each serving. RASPBERRY MUFFINS

(Makes 12) 2 cups all purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup sugar 2 eggs 2/3 cup milk 3 tablespoons melted butter 1 1/2 cups raspberries 2 teaspoons sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease muffin tins. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar and combine. Add the eggs, milk and melted butter, quickly stirring them in. Fold in the raspberries. Fill the muffin cups and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden. RASPBERRY JAM

(1 quart jam) This is quite tart. 1 quart raspberries 2 1/2 to 3 cups sugar Juice of 1 or 2 lemons, or to taste

Wash raspberries gently and place them in a deep pan. Add about 2 cups sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice.

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent burning or sticking. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar or lemon juice according to the flavor. Continue boiling for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture jells on the mixing spoons.

While hot pour into 8-ounce sterilized jars and seal.