The Joy of Raspberries

Raspberries, like all berries, are packed with nutrients.*  But, did you know they are super easy to grow?

Heritage berries, our first variety

A few years after we built our home, Jamie planted an everbearing variety called Heritage. Everbearing means they produce berries twice in the season. The Heritage plants produce berries on old canes in early summer and on new canes from August to frost.  Their round berries are small and delicate but have great color and flavor.  Now 20+ years later, our half dozen Heritage plants produce only a small crop because they’re being crowded out by an unruly shrub on one side, and a vegetable garden on the other. I was enjoying a handful of these colorful jewels this morning, and it brought back memories of when the kids were young and we were teaching them the joys of berry picking.

About 10 years ago, Jamie became more serious about growing raspberries and decided to cultivate a more prolific variety called Caroline in a designated berry patch behind the greenhouse.  Caroline is a vigorous everbearing variety which produces very large conical-shaped, flavorful berries. The bushes are sturdy as are the berries, meaning they don’t easily smash, wilt, or mildew like more delicate varieties. Jamie originally planted two 70 foot rows, but over the years the patch has doubled in size so now we have four 70 foot rows. How did this happen? Raspberry plants have an active root system and in the Spring new canes pop up from these roots which grow into more bushes. This is why you should only plant raspberry bushes in an area that is conducive to them spreading. Each Spring Jamie digs up the new shoots and replants them in rows so the patch doesn’t become unmanageable.

Caroline raspberries – they grow over 6 feet tall! Bees are always buzzing and busy in the patch.

When in full production, the bushes gift us with 20 – 30 half pints each day for two months! That’s a lot of berries and time spent picking!  But I’m so grateful Jamie planted, manages, and picks this incredible crop so we can enjoy the delicious and nutritious bounty. He spends many hours picking, and I contribute by spending many hours freezing them in single layer sheets, then packaging them using our FoodSaver vacuum sealer. I go countless times up and down, up and down the cellar stairs – from the kitchen to the stand up freezer while balancing trays and packages of berries. I put up enough to make daily smoothies for the year. When working with Anthony William, he told me that raspberries (and blueberries) don’t lose their medicinal qualities when frozen, which was good news indeed! I also make a batch of low-sugar jam every other season, so we never need to buy jam from the store. But the best is when we treat ourselves a few times each summer by making no-bake raspberry pies like the ones we ate many times at the Crossroads Restaurant while on vacation in Cobscook, Maine. It took me several tries to reproduce the recipe but it was well worth the effort! Actually, I’ll be sharing this pie recipe in my upcoming cookbook! The rest of the berries we sell to New Morning Market, our amazing local Health Food Store.

In full production.

Wait there’s more! We also have a third variety called Purple Royalty growing in our greenhouse and spilling out onto the lawn, which Jamie manages by cutting them down with the mower. Jamie’s beloved cousin and our prior neighbor, Bob, gave us Purple Royalty canes several years back and for whatever reason, Jamie planted them in the greenhouse.  They’re wonderful berries and they are our connection to Bob, who’s since passed. But they really shouldn’t be in the greenhouse because they are growing wild in a corner and it takes work to keep them somewhat under control. These are the bushes producing right now. Similar to Heritage, the berries are conical and very large, but they are even sweeter, although a bit more delicate.

Purple Heritage berries and bushes; these are the unruly bushes growing happily in the greenhouse.

Rope is strung on T posts to support the bushes as they grow tall and become heavy with berries.

In addition to replanting the new shoots that pop up in the Spring, maintenance also includes creating a support for the heavily laden branches, and trimming the bushes way back each Fall. Oh, and of course there’s the picking and processing. But WE LOVE it! I hope this walk around our berry patches has inspired you to live a life well planted too. As you can see, something as simple as raspberries can hold treasured memories as the seasons roll by, and be a connection to our past and loved ones. Plus they are delectable and packed with nutrients 😉