Not only are they great tasting and decorative

Not only are they great tasting and decorative

MINTER: Try planting your own raspberries this season

Not only are they great tasting and decorative, but they are also a great health food

It seems every time you go to a dessert bar, raspberries rule.

Not only are they great tasting and decorative, but they are also a great health food.  A three-quarters cup serving has only 49 calories, has 25mg of vitamin C and contains the flavonoid quercetin that helps fight inflammation, cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Although raspberries can be frozen during their season and still retain their nutrition, flavour and flavonoids, when picked fresh they are at their best used within one day of picking.

We all know raspberries are a beautiful red fruit, but they also come in yellow, amber and purplish black.

I mention this now because it’s a wonderful time to plant them for years of fresh harvesting, possibly even this year.

At this time, most raspberries are sold in garden stores as bare sticks with roots.  They are easy to plant but for the greatest success, a few key things must happen.  First, cut the stems down to two to three inches above the roots.  This will ensure the roots will easily push up new shoots from the bottom.  I soak the roots in a solution of root starter or organic fish fertilizer to help new roots form quickly.  They also need to be planted in lighter soil with good drainage and plant them just deep enough to cover the roots – not too deep or too shallow.    It’s best to set them out in rows about 3 feet apart and to use a wire frame to keep them upright and well behaved.

Water them well, especially when planting, to get all the air pockets out of the planting hole and to keep them moist.  Once they start to grow, use a bit of slow release 14-14-14 fertilizer around each plant to really push them along.  Follow these simple guidelines and you will have 100% success.

If you choose everbearing varieties, the new shoots that come up from the bottom this spring will produce fresh wonderful fruit from mid-summer well into fall.  ‘Heritage’ has been the most well known good variety for many years, but ‘Autumn Bliss’ seems to be the new star with large fruit and great flavour.  ‘Caroline’, ‘Nova’ and ‘Prelude’ are also quite marvellous.  Planted soon, these everbearing varieties will allow you to sample their fruits this summer.  ‘Fall Gold’ is a beautiful yellow everbearing variety that has great flavour and will also produce this year.

For main season varieties, you need to plant this spring for good production next summer from late June through August.  ‘Willamette’ is an older, well known variety that produces early dark red fruit.

Most raspberries are quite hardy down to zone 4-5, but for colder climates, ‘Boyne’ is the very hardiest down to zone 3, but it really does need good drainage, as do they all.

It produces medium sized delicious berries. ‘Nova’ is also very hardy.  ‘Joan J’ and ‘Canby’ are almost thornless varieties that are easy to pick and have good sized, tasty fruit.  ‘Tulameen’ has exceptionally large fruits with great colour and flavour.  ‘Encore’ is an improved ‘Tulameen’ with berries up to three grams in size. Both are ideal for the home garden because of their size and extended harvest.

For black raspberries, the old-fashioned ‘Munger Black Caps’ are smaller but very tasty. I love their pinkish-purple stems that look almost ornamental.  ‘Black Jewel’ is a good sized black raspberry and is truly delicious.

The new ‘hottie’ in raspberries has been the introduction of the dwarf thornless everbearing variety from Fall Creek Nurseries in Oregon, called ‘Raspberry Sundae’.

It’s part of the ‘brazzleberry’ program meant to produce fruit in containers for most of the summer.

It’s a great idea but requires a good sized pot and lots of nutrients to perform up to expectations.

So if you’ve got a little bit of space in your garden in a sunny well-drained area, plant some raspberries – they’re fun, tasty, good for you and a nice addition to your dessert bar.