How did raspberries ever get to be such a luxury? They used to grow in, even over-grow, everyone's back yard. Now they cost $5 a pint at the fancy fruit markets.

The technology that brings us strawberries in January, however tasteless they may be, is the same kind of technology that makes raspberries so costly. Since they don't travel well, they are not being purchases for supermarket chains across the country. Since they are not being purchased, farmers have stopped growing them. Since they have become fairly scarce, they are expensive.

When raspberries, which are quite perishable, are sent here from California they must come by plane, another important factor in their cost.

The berries grown in this area are not enough to supply the commercial market. So most local raspberries are available from trucks parked along the side of the road, in a few small grocery stores and more and more at the pick-your-own-farms.

The fragility of the berries has always made it quite costly to harvest them. But as the pick-your-own craze has increased, more and more growers are planting raspberries, and according to Harold Hoecker at the University of Maryland, "People go crazy over them."

Until recently raspberries were available only two months out of the year: in June and October. But during the last few summers, rapberries have been available from May through October or November.

According to Hoecker, the new variety of raspberry, called Heritage, starts producing in the latter part of June and bears the greatest amount of fruit during August and September.

So if you don't want to spend $5 for a pint, or even $3 when the roadside stands are selling them, get out your picking baskets and try some of the locals farms. In Maryland your local library should have a copy of the pick-your-own brochure put out by the University of Maryland. It will tell you where and when to pick raspberries.

If you don't eat them all before you get them home, you may want to use the raspberries in the recipes below or with Creme Fraiche, the homemade version of the tangy thick cream so popular in France.

Creme Fraiche

(Makes 1 pint) 1 pint heavy cream 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Pour cream into a jar. Stir in buttermilk. Cover loosely. Leave in warm place, such as the top of the stove, until cream thickens like yogurt. This can take as long as four days, or as little as overnight. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.