For the last 4 years or so my girlfriend and I have been growing our own raspberries. Raspberries can be amazing. Whether just eaten by themselves, with ice cream, baked into your favorite sweet treat or even made into your own homemade jam they are close to being one of my favourites. But buying them at fruit shops at exorbitant prices then inevitably being disappointed with the taste and texture was leaving a sour taste in our mouths, literally.
So after a little research I discovered that there are various species of raspberry (rubus) that would not only grow in the sub tropical climate we were currently living in but potentially thrive. The Chilcotin raspberry (rubus idaeus x rubus hybrids) and the Atherton raspberry (rubus probus). The Chilcotin raspberry is probably the one more of us are familiar with and has the classic look of a raspberry. It is favored amongst growers for its reliably high yields and long fruiting time as well as strong disease resistance. Unlike many other rubus vaieties that grow on incredibly long and thin, rambling canes 3 metres+ (10 foot+) the Chilcotin raspberry stands on thick 1-1.5 metre (4ft) canes that need little to some support standing when fully grown and fruiting. For ease I recommend a couple of tall posts hammered into the ground and in 2 or 3 places tie string between them. As the canes grow up just simply wind them through the 3 strings. This variety can be a vigorous grower and the canes will need to be thinned during growing season. Try not to keep any more than 8 but preferably 4-6 of the strongest and healthiest looking ones and pull the rest out. Continue to do this until after fruiting so that the plant can concentrate its energy on the main canes. The fruit is plump and juicy, tart tasting but unforgettable. It has a pungent raspberry flavour reminiscent of raspberry flavoured lollies (but without all the sugar) When ripe the fruit will be bright to crimson red and will seperate slightly from its cone almost falling into your hand when grasping it. If you have to pull too hard then its probably not ready. We get fruit sometimes twice a year with this variety and any excess berries that aren’t eaten or made into jam are frozen and whizzed up in smoothies.
The Atherton raspberry however you may not be so familiar with. Rubus Probus is a wild tropical species of raspberry native to Australia and Papua New Guinea. It, somewhat like the Chilcotin variety grows on strong thick canes but up to 2-3 metre (8ft) tall but with the ability to branch. If you thought the Chilcotin was a vigorous grower then the Atherton raspberry is explosive! The blooming period of this variety is spring but we have had fruit right the year round where we live. It looks very different to your average raspberry, is a very large and essentially hollow. Be careful ants LOVE to climb inside these tasty fruits and have a bit of a party. I’ve found upwards of 50 ants in one berry!
When ripe the berry like the Chilcotin will separate slightly from the bush and should fall off easily into your hand. I have noticed though that they are still quite tasty if you need for whatever reason to pick them a little early. After picking open it up quick to check for ants and prepare for one of the more satisfying experiences in life. The taste is amazingly sweet unlike most European varieties while still maintaining strong notes of raspberry and maybe a hint of pepper? These are unlike any raspberry I had tasted before and I urge people who aren’t fans of eating raspberries to reserve judgement until after tasting these. Each cane can produce up to a massive 3kg (6.5 pounds) of fruit and with the rate these bad-boys grow you may have fruit in a matter of weeks or months after the initial planting. A LOT OF FRUIT :).
These berries surprisingly freeze well like the Chilcotin variety and maintain their sweetness when subsequently used in a smoothie or baked treat. One of my favourite activities is going out every morning and picking the ripe raspberries and of course sampling a few :). I have since then began to propagate them and give them to family and friends some of whom use the planting/growing and picking experience to bond with their young children (kids seem to love raspberries) and teach them about the rewarding and sustainable experience of growing your own food and saving money at the same time. Maybe you could as well?
Hope you enjoyed the article thanks for reading.