Popular Varieties: Autumn Bliss, Malling Admiral
Store At: Ideally no more than a few hours, at cool temperature (10°C)
Comes From: All temperate regions; raspberries are very hardy.
Seasonality: Late Summer to Autumn but PGST
One of the most delicate and delicious fruits available, raspberries are thought by many to rival strawberries as the finest fruit available. Growing on short-lived canes that constantly spring up from a suckering root system, raspberries are extremely perishable.
The varieties we see in supermarkets are some of the most durable around; they need to be, to survive the experience of picking, transport and retail; unfortunately, this means they also lose a great deal of taste. As always, the best ones will be those grown by the home gardener for immediate consumption off the plant - they are really easy to grow too, see further down the page for more information.
Raspberries are not only available in red; you can also get black, purple and yellow varieties. Technically, they are not a berry but an aggregate fruit; the small round red globes that make up the raspberry itself are called drupelets. In raspberries, when the fruit is picked, the conical core remains on the plant and separates from the fruit, whereas in blackberries, the drupelets stay attached to the core.
Raspberries are known to contain high amounts of polyphenol antioxidants, chemicals linked to good skin and cardiovascular health. An artificial sweetener called xylitol is also extracted from raspberries.
When picking raspberries in a store, try to pick ones without the centre core; if they have this, they were probably picked too early and will be tart. Raspberries that are ripe will easily come off the core.
Raspberries are native to Europe and Asia, in particular in hilly areas and heaths on the edge of woodland, particularly favouring acidic soil. They grow wild in Scandinavia quite far north, and can tolerate some degree of cold. Remains of seeds have been found in prehistoric village ruins in Switzerland, proving they were eaten for many a year, but they were largely ignored by many writers, in particular the Greeks and Romans who brought about cultivation of so many of our fruit and vegetable crops we love today.
Raspberries were not a popular cultivated fruit in Europe until the 16th century, and are not believed to have been popular in ancient times - if they were there is little proof of it. Because of the nature of the plant however, a bramble, it is likely it was commonly picked as a wild fruit instead. There were first recorded as a cultivated fruit in 1548 when an English herbalist called Turner wrote of them. But even now, they were used as a garden plant rather than cultivated in any great amount. In 1629, an entire chapter of a book was finally devoted to the cultivation of the raspberry, but they didn't achieve commonplace status until the mid 1700s.
In America, it was a similar picture; most early cultivation in America was grossly overrun by native plants, and raspberries were not mentioned in detail until 1771. In the middle of the 19th century a great deal of work was done improving the European red varieties by Brinckle.
As well as used as an out of hand food source for their fruit, raspberries are commonly used to make jams or jellies, but also raspberry wine or vinegar, and sweets. They were also used as a cure for sore eyes and throats. Raspberry tea is also good for helping pregnant women with morning sickness in particular.
Raspberries are fantastically easy to grow – put them in, prune them a bit, and eat them! Well, it’s a bit harder than that, so here goes.
There are two different types of raspberry, summer fruiting that fruit on last years growth, and autumn fruiting that take a little bit longer but fruit on current season growth. Both types need lots of sun and plenty of water to develop nice big juicy fruit.
Raspberries are very hardy plants and will easily overwinter outdoors in the UK, but the fruits are susceptible to frosts when developing, so if we’re having a harsh winter, bear that in mind. Raspberries require good drainage, but also a good supply of moisture, so get plenty of compost or other organic matter in the planting hole. They will grow in any soils except heavy clays and light sand. They also should not be grown in areas where tomatoes, peppers, aubergines or other crops that suffer from verticillium wilt have been grown in the last 3-4 years, since the fungus remains in the soil for several years and can wipe out the plants!
The plants should be planted out as early as possible in spring. Dig a hole large enough to take the entire root system without it being cramped, and plant them the same depth as they were growing in the pot, or as best as you can guess if they’re bare root plants. The important thing is to make sure that the crown, where new canes grow from, are below the soil surface. Include plenty of organic material in the planting hole.
New plants should be planted in late autumn or early spring, and the canes cut back to around 4 inches after planting. Newly planted summer raspberries should be left to their own devices for the first year, and then cut back each year to 3-5 canes per plant when the buds are showing in the following spring.
The canes can ultimately grow up to thirty feet, but typically they’re restricted to around 6 feet.
To propagate raspberries, suckers are usually taken from the roots when they develop. They can also be propagated by tip layering; usually by late summer, the ends of the canes are dropping to the ground, and can be buried in moist soil. In 6-8 weeks these root and can be separated as identical plants.
Raspberries should not be allowed to dry out during flowering and fruiting, else you will get substantial flower/fruit drop. In Spring, prune the canes back to 3 feet; this forces the growth into side branches which can be trained along support wires. After canes fruit they should be chopped back to the ground, unless it is an early variety, which bear fruit on these canes the following spring, and if you cut them back now you won’t ever get any fruit!
- Raspberries on Wikipedia
- Growing Raspberries
- Raspberries on Newcrop
Many hundreds of varieties of raspberries exist, but it’s one of those fruits that the supermarket doesn’t usually bother telling us what variety we’re getting. Some favourites include Autumn Bliss, Malling Admiral and Golden Everest.
A superb variety, this is a popular late cropping variety which produces medium large berries from early August until the first frosts, with each plant producing up to 1lb / 450g of fruit each year. Autumn Bliss has a high degree of disease resistance.
Another yellow variety, Fall Gold is a late summer-autumn cropper, producing good crops of delicious sweet flavoured fruit.
Golden Everest is a yellow fruited variety, producing fruit midseason. This variety has large berries and is a vigorous grower.
A strong grower, Malling Admiral has good disease resistance and good flavour.