You can grow delicious raspberries in your own backyard without letting them take over your world.
Imagine having private picking rights to this supreme dessert fruit. The downside--as with any indulgence--is when things get out of control. But with careful planting and pruning, you can keep this notorious spreader in check.
A single plant costs only a few dollars--about what you'd pay for a pint of berries. And when you're growing your own, you can treat yourself to not just red raspberries, but the sublime yellows, blacks, and purples rarely found in supermarkets.
The Scoop on Raspberries
- Raspberries prefer cold winters and moderate summers, though some varieties have been developed for southern gardens. Slightly acidic soil is ideal, but almost any sunny site with good drainage and air circulation will work.
- Nurseries sell raspberries as bare-root or potted plants in spring. Take time when selecting your plants and make sure the ones you pick are certified virus-free.
- There are two types of raspberries--single-crop and everbearing. Single-crop plants produce fruit in late spring in the South and in summer in the North, and everbearers produce fruit in early summer and autumn. Everbearers will produce a single crop their first year, in fall. However, single-crop raspberries produce fruit on the previous year's growth, so you'll have to wait a year to harvest those.
- Raspberry canes grow up to six feet tall and need support to keep them from toppling. They can be tied to a trellis or fence, but it's easier to surround the patch with stakes and wrap support wires around the plantings at knee and chest height. The lower wire keeps canes from flopping over, while the upper one supports lateral branches and runners. Left to flop and fend for themselves, the plants will sprawl and reproduce freely--just what you don't want in a backyard setting.
- For the most productive raspberries, take a little time to properly prune canes. After the last summer harvest, cut fruiting canes down to the ground. In late winter, thin plantings to four or five canes per foot.
- For the ultimate in carefree raspberry gardening, mow down all the everbearing canes in spring and enjoy a single crop of berries late in the season. You only get one batch of fruit this way, but you never have to figure out which canes to cut!
Handle with Care
- When the fruit ripens, pick it promptly. Birds and insects are attracted to overripe fruit. A ripe raspberry leaves its core behind--that's what differentiates it from blackberries and other bramble fruits. Because raspberries are hollow, they bruise easily. As you pick, handle them gently, placing the berries in a shallow container so they don't bruise from the weight of the other berries.
- Use raspberries immediately or store them in the refrigerator for up to two days. And this is important--don't wash the fruit until just before eating, otherwise they'll begin to spoil.
- Raspberries freeze well. Just place unwashed fruit in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freeze until firm, and store in freezer bags or containers. Frozen berries will keep for up to one year. That means you can enjoy their summer-fresh taste year-round. Rinse before you're ready to use.
Contact your local garden center or horticulture extension office to find out what grows best in your own backyard.
Recipes for Fresh Raspberries
Cobblers, Crumbles, Crunches, and Crisps:
Pies and Tarts:
Cakes, Muffins, and Scones:
Pick of the Patch
Deciding which raspberry to grow can be daunting, but you can't go wrong with these tried-and-true varieties. Check with your local extension service or nursery to find out which ones work best in your area.
Red--Taylor produces lots of large, firm, bright red berries with very good flavor.
Yellow--Honey Queen boasts heavy crops of sweet medium to large fruits. Black--Bristol has large glossy fruits with excellent flavor. They're good fresh, canned, or frozen.
Purple--Royalty, a newer hybrid, produces sweet, soft, extra-large berries. They're best eaten fresh, but can be frozen or used in jams and jellies.
Red--Heritage is a sturdy variety resistant to many pests and diseases. Fruits have excellent flavor and freeze well. Dorman Red tolerates heat and humidity and can be grown as far south as Mississippi and Alabama.
Yellow--Fallgold produces soft golden fruits with a blush of pink. Berries have good flavor, but must be eaten fresh; they're not suitable for freezing or canning.
Make the Most Of Your Crop
After pruning your raspberries, save the dry canes. They make excellent kindling for your outdoor fire pit, fireplace, or woodstove.
For a mild-flavored tea, steep raspberry leaves in hot water. Be sure to use plants that haven't been treated with chemicals.
What do you get when you cross a raspberry with a blackberry? That's what James H. Logan did in 1881, producing the eponymous loganberry. Other hybrids include the tayberry (named for the River Tay in Scotland) and the boysenberry (developed by Rudolph Boysen and made famous by Knott's Berry Farm).