There are many advantages to growing this tasty fruit, says Fiann Ó Nualláin
There are many varieties of raspberry (Rubus Idaeus) and not all are raspberry in colour but they each fall in one of two categories — floricane or primocane. Floricanes are often sold under the banner of summer-bearers while primocanes are generally marketed as ever-bearers or autumn raspberries. So, on one level it is just a seasonal thing (when they will yield fruit) but on another level there is a whole other protocol of pruning and care depending on the type.
The biggest mistake with raspberries is incorrect pruning, resulting in a poor or no crop the following year. Floricanes bear fruit on two-year canes, ones grown the previous season, they fruit once over summer and are thinned of their previous bearing stems over autumn — that’s the brown stems that you have harvested from this year, remove at soil level. Keep intact the newer green stems that they produced this year as they will fruit next year.
Primocanes bear fruit on canes grown in current year and they can have two crops — one in late summer and one again in autumn. An early snip will cost you a harvest. They are traditionally pruned hard back in February. If I was starting afresh, I would only grow primos — it’s just easier. That said the greatest variety of size, flavour and colour are contained in the flori group.
Floricanes may need some frost protection to their flowers early in the year depending on your location and the year we might be having. Primos are generally grand left to it, they bud much later and well into warm sunshine territory. Both like full sun but both can take periods of daytime shade so no need to sacrifice the best spot in the garden for a bumper crop.
I grow mine along a wall and all the fruit generally face out as flowers seek to be toward the best light — they get shelter and I get an easy harvest.
The tradition is to plant in two-metre-wide rows, roughly 40 centimetres apart but they naturally want to form thickets. You can selectively prune or thin to shape/restrict. The advantage of the sheltering wall or fence is that you don’t have to mess with support wires so much. And if you have to add in wires or structural canes in order to bear the fruiting load on heavier cropping varieties then the shelterbelt makes for less rubbing and crossing branch damage.
Primos tend to be shorter and less requiring of wires to prevent tipping. Floris can get quite tall and may easily top a garden fence in a good warm summer. There are some miniature varieties available, suitable for container growing – and perfect to cut all the fuss out of the equation.
Raspberries perform better on a slightly acid soil but in general, most moderately fertile soil if well-drained but somewhat moisture-retentive is the key to success. This well-drained but somewhat moisture-retentive is the zen koan of all gardeners whether you mindfully rake or not — the trick is adding plenty of humus/home compost to free up the soil base and both allow space to drain and sponge capacity to hold moisture for the roots — the aim is for it not to drain in an instant and definitely not to waterlog.
Raspberries are well worth growing as a tasty treat, but as a seasonal healthy fruit there is a lot more going on than just good nutritionally dense berries. Those jewels are packed with anthocyanins (including cyanidins, pelargonidins and malvidins) and flavonols (including catechins, quercetin and kaempferol) that yield potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Inclusion of raspberries into your diet over bananas and pears and other higher sugar content fruit could be a good move. That said the great move is that raspberries are full of a chemical known as rheosmin (aka raspberry ketone) which is said to increase enzyme activity and heat production in human fat cells.
What is amazing is that rheosmin is also said to decrease the release/activity of pancreatic lipase — that’s the fat-digesting enzyme which has a role in the digestion and absorption of fat. The less of that lipase on the go, the less we technically should be piling on pounds.
Now is also the time to plant some bare canes from the garden centre or make mail orders for next year. Try ‘Allgold’, ‘Autumn Bliss’, or ‘Cascade’. ‘Gaia’ is a summer-bearer bred for disease resistant. Irish gardeners often favour the hardy and summer cropping “glens” — that’s Glen Ample ,’Glen Moy’ and ‘Glen Prosen’ – among others. Reliability also to be found in ‘Malling Admiral’, ‘Octavia’, ‘Royalty’ and ‘Polka’
Raspberry is said to have an affinity with the female reproductive system and has a long history as a uterine tonic and childbirthing aid. It’s not the berry however but the leaf. In traditional herbalism, the phytochemicals contained in the foliage benefits the alleviation of menstrual cramps and labour pains.
As a pregnancy tonic, the tea of the leaf, if taken for the last two and one-half months of pregnancy, is said to act to tone the uterus in preparation for birth and to assist with recovery by speedily toning the womb after birth. It is also said to help prepare the breasts for breastfeeding.
In the more holistic approach, raspberry leaf is said to be cleansing of the etheric and emotional bodies and may help to facilitate a more childlike awareness/openness, and so be enriching our spiritual growth. Maybe you will be raking like a zen monk this week after all.