The Joy of Raspberries
Raspberries, like all berries, are packed with nutrients.
But, did you know they are super easy to grow?
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 break, wilt, or mildew like more delicate varieties. Jamie originally planted two 70 foot rows, but over the years the patch has more than doubled in size so now we have five 70 foot rows. How did this happen? Raspberry plants have an active root system. In the Spring new canes shoot up from their root systems; these canes 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.
When in full production, the bushes gift us with 20 to 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. Fortunately, raspberries (and blueberries) don't lose their nutritional qualities when frozen. 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! What we don’t eat or put up gets sold to New Morning Market, our amazing local Health Food Store.
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. Similar to Heritage, the berries are conical and very large, but they are even sweeter, although a bit more delicate.