Updated: Jul 22
You know it's summer when you see raspberry bushes laden with bright juicy fruit. This versatile berry can be enjoyed on their own, in an endless variety of recipes, or added to an array of colourful beverages from smoothies to mixed-drinks.
The terrific thing about raspberries, is that they grow in relatively small spaces, yet bestow upon you a most bountiful harvest year after year – provided they are well taken care of.
Depending on the type of raspberry that’s planted, the bushes can be harvested all the way from midsummer through to the first frost. Some species bear only one crop during the summer and the other will bloom all the way into the fall (best to plant both kinds to get raspberries all season long).
Good things to know before you grow:
Best to plant in the thawed ground in early spring after the threat of frost is passed. Make sure it is an area that receives full sun.
Surround the roots with mulch or straw to conserve moisture and reduce the number of weeds. If there is no rain, water regularly as opposed to an occasional deep soak.
Raspberry bushes are prolific. New shoots (called runners) tend to pop up everywhere, so allow them to spread within the areas you want the bushes to grow but remove when they go rogue and pop up in areas beyond that boundary as each new branch (cane) draws nutrients away from the mother plant. Having said that, you can always replant the little rebels wherever you would like them to grow or give one to a friend.
All raspberry bushes need pruning every year. They are perennials, but the branches that bear the fruit live only for two summers. The first summer canes tend to be greener than the second-year branches. Once it is finished bearing fruit, the branch dies and needs pruning so new green shoots can take its place. It is a good habit to trim the cane as soon as you’ve finished picking – provided it is the second-year branches. You can tell the difference because it is a brown stem where the first year is greener. If you have the type of raspberry bush that bears fall fruit – simply cut all canes back to the ground in late winter.
Raspberries are not prone to many pests. Japanese beetles, nematodes and aphids tend to be the biggest threat, as well as rabbits who nibble on the canes during the winter. In my garden, it’s the birds who enjoy them the most.
Bees are awesome and the biggest contributors to their pollination. So, a well-placed bee house would make your raspberry plants that much more fruitful.
When the berries ripen, you will need to pick every couple of days. The sweetest come from the heat of summer, so pluck them on sunny days when they are nice and dry. If they are ready, it takes no effort at all, they will simply slide of the vine.
Raspberries don’t keep long, so enjoy them when they are just picked. A few helpful tips:
If you need to wash them, let them air dry completely before storing. They will grow moldy and mushy if not kept dry in storage.
You can store them in the fridge for up to five days.
If freezing them, spread a single layer of clean, firm berries on a cookie sheet, and place in the freezer. Once frozen, they roll easily into airtight bags or containers.
Always use the freshest fruit when making jams, jellies, or other types of preserves.
Buy organic when purchasing to avoid pesticide residue.
If you're fortunate enough to have access to fresh raspberries this summer, consider including them to recipes that simply scream summer:
Add to smoothies, yogurt, or any summer salad
Make a fresh fruit cocktail with raspberries, pineapple, sliced peaches, and strawberries or just add soda for a refreshing drink
Sprinkle on top of waffles or pancakes
Turn into ice cream or popsicles
Blend in a food processor with a little water and use the mixture as a fresh syrup for desserts, ice cream sundaes, or breakfast foods
Turn into a sauce which can be enjoyed either warm or cold.
Make raspberry vinegar
The raspberry is not just a pretty face whose deep, rich colour promises a sweet juicy taste. They are also a good source of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which help to support and enhance brainpower, heart health, and digestion just to name a few. In fact, a cup of raspberries can provide more than one-third of your recommended Vitamin C intake for the day. Whether you have raspberry bushes or not, adding these beauties to your recipes will only enhance your menu.