Raspberries: juiciest jewels in the yard

April 08, 2007|By Nancy Taylor Robson | Nancy Taylor Robson,Special to the Sun

When it comes to culinary luxury, nothing compares to raspberries. Fabulous in flavor, chock-full of antioxidants and incredibly versatile, they're great tossed fresh on salads, dropped into champagne, made into ice cream, sauced on chicken, baked into streusel muffins and more. These botanical jewels become jam in no time flat with nothing more than sugar and a saucepan, and they freeze beautifully. Unfortunately, except for black raspberries (called blackcaps) they're appallingly bad travelers - they wilt, they crush, they grow moldy overnight.

As a result, they cost the moon. Luckily they can be surprisingly easy to grow.

Members of the rose (Rosacea) family, raspberries are brambles, which means that like blackberries, wine berries, loganberries and others, they grow on canes and have, to one degree or another, thorns. Though "raspberry" usually conjures visions of ruby-colored fruit, the berries actually come in red, gold, purple and black varieties, each of which has a subtly different flavor, though the blacks' flavor is richly different enough to distinguish with eyes closed.

Regardless of color, they fall into one of two basic types - everbearing aka fall-bearing (primocane) and summer-bearing (floricane).

Summer-bearing raspberries produce fruit only on second-season canes. Depending on the variety, starting in mid-June through July, they produce a crop for three weeks or so and are done.

Everbearing types can actually produce berries twice a season, once sometime in June for three weeks on the previous year's leftover canes, and again beginning in mid-late August on the current year's new green canes. But while they can produce two crops, most growers clear-cut the patch each year. No second-year canes means it only produces berries in fall.

"The summer crop is usually not as plentiful as the one in fall that grows on first-year canes," explains Tim Nourse, president of Nourse Farms in South Deerfield, Mass. "The fall crop starts usually around Aug. 10 and goes until frost."

This fruiting time differential can help you decide what kind of raspberries to plant. If you or the kids will be around to pick during the summer but are work- and school-focused in fall, go for the summer-bearing varieties.

"But if you're going to be away in June or July, you should plant fall-bearing," says John Perdue, nurseryman at Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, who has a half-acre of raspberries that he sells at farmers' markets.

Some area garden centers sell raspberry plants, though there is usually a wider selection in catalogues.

Garden centers tend to sell out in April while catalogs stop shipping in late May - but all suggest ordering as early as possible because raspberries are popular. There are some great new varieties this year, like `Jaclyn,' a purple fall-bearing raspberry developed at the University of Maryland.

"`Jaclyn' has really intense raspberry flavor," says Nourse. "It's quite upright and the plant's got pretty good vigor, but it's the flavor and quality of fruit that's the thing. You really know you're eating raspberries."

Another new offering is a yellow fall-bearing variety called `Anne.'

"`Anne' is a wonderful berry," says Wayne Lockwood, owner of Lockbriar Farms in Worton. "It's big and sweet and looks beautiful mixed in with red `Carolines.'"

Sources

Henry Fields Seed and Nursery Co.

P.O. Box 397

Aurora, IN 47001-0397

513-354-1494

henryfields.com

Valley View Farms

11035 York Road

Cockeysville, MD 21030

410-527-0700 valleyviewfarms.com

Homestead Gardens

743 W. Central Ave.

Davidsonville, MD 21035

410-798-5000

homesteadgardens.com

Behnke Nurseries

11300 Baltimore Ave.

Beltsville, MD 20705

301-937-1100

behnkes.com

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