Raspberries are not berries

A foolproof guide to growing raspberries

  • The RHS recommends tying canes individually to a wire support, and summer-fruiting varieties do need this to survive winter gales. Here again, however, autumn varieties are easier — I just have a length of old washing-line tied round posts at the four corners of my row, and that’s all the support they need.
  • If you grow short, sturdy ‘Autumn Bliss’ in a sheltered spot you might well manage without any support at all. One thing’s for sure — the elaborate structure you may have seen Monty Don using on Gardeners’ World for his raspberries is unnecessary for the autumn variety.
  • The main reason you’re advised to replace raspberry canes every 10 years or so is to prevent a build-up of viruses and other diseases. But autumn varieties tend to be disease-free since the long period without canes helps to reduce the “bridge” between seasons that encourages diseases to keep going.
  • Autumn raspberries are out of sync with the dreaded raspberry beetle, so it’s rare to find maggots in your fruit.
  • Raspberries tend to be less damaged by birds than strawberries anyway, and autumn varieties are particularly trouble-free; bird damage to my raspberries is negligible.

There is, of course, nothing to stop you growing both summer and autumn raspberries, guaranteeing an almost continuous supply from July to October.

But a word of caution: take care where you plant them. Both types have remarkable powers of spread via underground runners, so unless you plant the two varieties a long way apart, they have an alarming tendency to get mixed up.

Once this has happened all is lost, because it’s no longer possible to know what (or when) to prune. On the other hand, this free production of runners makes them very easy to propagate: as long as you have a friend or relative who grows raspberries, you shouldn’t need to buy any.

Who said there was no such thing as a free lunch?

Ken Thompson is a plant biologist with a keen interest in the science of gardening. He writes and lectures extensively and has also written four gardening books, including Compost and No Nettles Required. His latest book is Do We Need Pandas? The Uncomfortable Truth About Biodiversity

Crumbly Berries: Information And Reasons For Raspberries Falling Apart

If you find malformed berries on your canes that have only a couple of drupes and fall apart at a touch, you have crumbly berries. What is crumbly berry? We’ve all seen the fruits that failed to live up to their promised splendor. A fungal disease usually causes this. Crumbly raspberry fruit may also be the result of poor pollination, sneaky little mites, or even overeager hoeing and trimming. Find out reasons for berries falling apart and how to ensure gorgeous, full berries on your plants.

What is Crumbly Berry?

Raspberries are actually a fruit composed of numerous clustered smaller fruits called drupes and include blackberry plants as well. When your berry has only a portion of the usual number, it is misshapen and devoid of juice and flavor. This is usually because the plant has contracted tomato ring spot or raspberry bushy dwarf viruses. As soon as you try to pick the affected fruits, they break apart. The virus is wind borne and has numerous hosts. Signs of bramble problems may include yellow streaked and stunted older leaves. New leaves rarely show any signs of infection.

Other Reasons for Berries Falling Apart

Another simple cause for crumby berries is mechanical injury. Broken canes and damaged stems cannot feed the forming fruit adequately, resulting in diminished raspberries.

Areas with extremes of wind, heat and cold or overuse of pesticides can limit the ability of bees and other pollinators to do their job. The flowers do not fully get pollinated and produce partial fruits.

One of the hardest to identify causes of crumbly berries is the dry berry mite. Crumbly raspberry fruit is the result of this tiny insect’s feeding. The sucking causes some parts of the forming berry to ripen early and become swollen in spots. The other areas fall inward and create a lumpy berry that is smaller than it would otherwise grow. Fruits affected by the mites are not as crumbly as those with the virus, but boast large seeds.

Raspberry leaf curl virus is another raspberry problem caused by an insect. Raspberry aphids transmit the disease when they feed on the berries. The overall effect is stunted plants, poor winter hardiness and small malformed berries.

Crumbly Raspberry Fruit Cures

The wind borne method of spread makes it difficult to prevent the viral spread. Remove excess vegetation from the raspberry bed and ensure that wild brambles are not located near your plants. You can also try moving newer plants to unaffected areas of the garden. This may limit the spread of the disease to the new plants.

There are no recommended domestic sprays for control of these viral bramble problems. Your best bet is to choose plants that are virus free, such as Esta and Heritage.

Combat aphids and mites with a horticultural soap and blasts of water to rinse off the pests. Provide superior care for healthy plants that are better able to withstand injury and recover from pest infections.

I help gardeners grow& beginners blossom.

George is off his game. He used to water, weed, pick and share his juicy raspberries and all the neighbors looked forward to his harvest. Well that was last year.

I knew George wasn’t feeling well so I offered to pick berries for him. I was thinking, rather confidently, I can bring a ray of light into his life.

Raspberries love shade and water. They hate weeds and poor soil.

Instead of being helpful, I was crushed. Like George, his plants are old and weak. We’ve had a dry summer, his berries are growing in full sun, and they are not being watered. They are shorter than normal. They are also full of grass and producing only a very few small fruit. It reminds me how fast a great garden dwindles if the owner can’t offer the care a crop wants and needs. Gardens fade fast.

Raspberries from High Level, Alberta to Qualicum Beach, British Columbia are suffering. On my #CBC radio show (Alberta at Noon, July 28th) I had calls about distressed raspberries, the queen of the summer fruit garden. When I visited my son in Smithers in July I saw his plants were also doing poorly. When I got home I saw my berries were no better. If you love raspberries and want even more fruit then do as I say, not as I do!

Raspberries are all either mid-summer bearing Floricane or the newer late summer bearing (not as common) Primocane. Most of us have Floricane berries from a friend or neighbour. Mine originally grew under the fence from my neighbour’s house!

Do you want to keep your berries at their peak? Follow these tips:

Raspberries growing in full sun get sunburned and then start fading and dropping leaves

Tip 1: Locate raspberries in a partial or fully shaded garden. I am surprised Raspberries grew in deep shade on the north side of my house in Calgary but that’s exactly where mine appeared after they crept through from Gerry’s garden next door. From this I learned raspberries like at least a bit of shade. Monika (@Macgyyver) confirmed this when she tweeted me that her berries in Edmonton have never been better than this year. She sent the reason on twitter: “I would guess it’s the shade from the lilac & apple. The monster vine next door keeps trying to come through fence & strangle it all.” Monica says her berries are so prolific they are spilling on the ground. I wish I could say the same about mine, currently growing in a full-sun location and not loving it.

Tip 2: Raspberries need a lot of water. With climate change the forest fires started earlier this year and we know moisture is in short supply for our fruit trees and berries. I use to have an irrigation system on my raspberry patch at my new-to-me old house in Qualicum Beach. We even installed a big seven foot –tall structure to stop the tall plants from flopping over. Last year we tore apart the old irrigation system because it was so leaky and out of date and wasteful.

We need to replace or rebuild our watering system but instead we accidentally let our attention turn elsewhere and our raspberries are suffering. By the first week of July I took a good look at my shorter than normal plants and started panic watering. The new sprigs are now healthy and green and strong and the recent berries are plumper than the first ones, but the plants are noticeably shorter and the overall crop is smaller. Oops, Berries are mostly water and I need to water more consistently.

Tip 3: Most people grow the mid-summer-bearing Floricane raspberries. This means you have to prune not once but twice or three times. Honestly it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what kind of berries you have because here is the scoop: if your raspberries bloom in mid-summer on little side-branches off of last year’s stems, then you know you have old-school Floricane berries. This means you have to be careful how you prune. First thing this fall, cut back all of the branches that bloomed this year. As soon as the leaves have changed colour and all the essential nutrients have travelled down to the roots, cut back the stems that branched or bloomed this year right back to the ground.

Then, if you live in a cold climate, wait until spring before you prune again. This time, remove any branches that are winter-killed. These are the brown or black dead stems. The final step to pruning is to thin out what is left so that the individual stems are well spaced. This was the trouble in Smithers. My son didn’t know about the thinning step. He was cutting back the old canes but not thinning what was left. Leaving about 15 cm-30 cm between each cane is needed for the old school Floricane berries.

PS If you have Primocanes, simply mow them all back in spring like a perennial plant and let ‘em rip. They bloom later because they have to grow and bloom from the new stems and the timing depends on the weather. If I was planting a new patch I would search for both kinds of berries so you get an overall longer season of bloom.

Tip 4: My neighbor George and Allison from Grande Prairie both let grass creep into their raspberry beds. There is no cure for this. George’s patch looks like dense turf with very few raspberry plants. Luckily, raspberries are vigorous and will randomly sprout up next door (this happened to me) in a flowerbed, the lawn or a back alley as soon as conditions improve. If you want to be pro-active you can dig sprouts up, rip out the grass that came with them and put the grass-free plants in one gallon pots. Meanwhile, you can properly prep a new weed-free bed with plenty of manure and compost and when you are sure it is clean you can plant your potted berries. Then cut the old patch back and suffocate what is left of that row with an old rug or a combination of cardboard and bark mulch. You won’t be planting there for a while.

If you do get berries, you are probably also getting birds gorging on them. This creative gardener, Des Kennedy on Denman Island, put his berries under a screen cover to protect the fruit from predation.

Tip 5: Let yourself relax a bit, try to rescue plants you have by soaking and weeding and shading. Or extend the season of picking by adding Primocane berries in a new specially prepared, weed-free row. I bought a new Eliot Chipper this year and I top-dressed my raspberry row with the wood chips from a tree I trimmed. I added the chips to hold the moisture in, which was helpful. Still the plants are short compared to the well-watered summers of the past. So this fall I will add a topdressing of biochar and manure to “water, weed and feed” my patch. I will also put a drip watering system back into place before next spring (I promise.)

But most of all I will remember the lesson learned from all this energy expended: there is no way you will ever think the berries for sale at the market or store are overpriced or not worth every penny you paid for them.

If you want to see my embarrassing plants in a short video have look at this video below. At least you will know you are not alone with your berry troubles. You are in good company. Like my callers to CBC and my neighbour George I woulda, coulda, shoulda done something sooner in my berry patch this year.

Are your raspberries going off like milk after it’s best before date? It takes effort to get everything back to normal. A garden is not a forest. It needs care and attention.

Bananas Are Berries?

ODDBALLS OF THE PRODUCE STAND, tomatoes and avocados are fruits, as most people know. Yet more often than not they’re found alongside vegetables in savory culinary preparations. Working on this issue of the magazine got me wondering what it is, exactly, that makes a fruit a fruit. It turns out that the plant world is full of strange cases of counterintuitive classification.

Botanists define a fruit as the portion of a flowering plant that develops from the ovary. It contains the seeds, protecting them and facilitating dispersal. (The definition of a vegetable is a little fuzzier: any edible part of a plant that isn’t a fruit.) Subcategories within the fruit family—citrus, berry, stonefruit or drupe (peaches, apricots), and pome (apples, pears)—are determined by which parts of the flower/ovary give rise to the skin, flesh and seeds.

Strawberries and raspberries aren’t really berries in the botanical sense. They are derived from a single flower with more than one ovary, making them an aggregate fruit. True berries are simple fruits stemming from one flower with one ovary and typically have several seeds. Tomatoes fall into this group, as do pomegranates, kiwis and—believe it or not—bananas. (Their seeds are so tiny it’s easy to forget they’re there.)

One might think that owing to their superficial similarities to stonefruits, avocados might be classified as drupes. But no, they’re actually considered a berry, too—with one, giant seed.

So, bananas are berries and raspberries aren’t. Who knew?

Greta Lorge, ’97, is a freelance writer and editor in San Francisco.

It seems strange that so many of the fruits which actually have “berry” in their names are not true berries, but botanically, it is true. Understanding how fruits are classified can be difficult, but a simple explanation may clear things up.

A berry is a simple fruit developed from one flower which has many seeds loosely embedded in its flesh.

Strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are not berries, but aggregate stone fruits or just aggregate fruits. The flowers which develop these fruits have numerous pistils from which each little fruit develops. Some aggregate fruits like the blackberry or strawberry are also considered accessory fruits, or aggregate-accessory fruits. This is because they contain a significant proportion of flesh that is developed from non-ovarian tissue. These are sometimes called pseudocarps.

A stone fruit (simple stone fruit) is a fruit that has a thin exocarp or ‘skin’ with a layer of flesh (usually juicy) underneath it. This flesh surrounds a seed with a hard endocarp. So, stone fruits are fruits like peaches, plums, and cherries. Coconuts are also stone fruits, but they have a fibrous flesh. The are all fruits considered drupes.

Aggregate stone fruits are produced by flowers with many ovaries which grow many fruits that are joined together on a swollen receptacle on the end of a stem.

Examples of true berries, which have many seeds, are blueberries, gooseberries, and grapes. However, there are other examples of berries which many surprise you.

In this high-resolution close-up photo of raspberries, you can see the individual ‘fruits’ characteristic of an aggregate stone fruit.

Fruits that Are Surprisingly Berries

Melons are berries, for example. Yes, a watermelon is a huge berry! It meets the description above, doesn’t it? Melons are a type of berry called a pepo, which have a very thick rind. Tomatoes are also berries. So too are cucumbers and peppers. Bananas are also sometimes classified as berries.

The avocado is a berry, as well: An unusual one-seeded one. The cacao pod, from which chocolate is derived, is also a berry. There is also the pineapple and the pomegranate. What strange berries!

Of course, no matter how a botanist classifies a berry, we aren’t going to make a berry pie with cantaloupe or cucumbers.

The berry family is a linguistic invention particular to Germanic languages, like English. Other languages, like Spanish and French, do not combine the wide, diverse berry family into one group, but rather have very different words for blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.

Where does the word berry come from?

The word berry comes from the Old English berie, which originally meant “grape.” As the English language spread to the Americas with colonization, many native grape-shaped fruits that grew in bunches took on the berry suffix: blueberry, cranberry, elderberry, etc. Though the many small, delicious fruits known as berries were grouped together in a linguistic accident, they are in fact many biologically distinct plants and fruits.

A botanist would probably tell you that grouping berries together is about as accurate as calling dolphins, tadpoles and squid “water creatures.” True berries are simply fruits in which each fruit comes from one flower, like blueberries. Even cucumbers and tomatoes are technically berries! Botanically speaking, blueberries (Latin family: Ericaceae) are more closely related to rhododendrons than they are to raspberries.

Are strawberries really berries?

Strawberries (Latin family: Fragaria) are called accessory fruits by botanists because they grow from parts of the plant other than the flowers. Raspberries and blackberries (Latin family: Rubus) are another example altogether. They are called aggregate fruits because their flowers form drupelets instead of one whole fruit. Drupelet is the technical word for the individual morsels of blackberries and raspberries. Fruits in the Rubus family are also called bramble fruits because they grow on spiky bushes.

Is a grape a berry?

Grapes, by the way, are technically berries. But where did the word grape come from? In Old English grapes were called winberige, literally “wine berry.” The word grape comes from the Old French word graper, which came from the word krappon, the hook used to pick grapes. In English, the tool became synonymous with the fruit in 1300s. (What other food words have morphed in weird ways? The history of the “hot dog” may gross you out, and the origin of egg is not to be missed.)

Luckily, the erroneous linguistic grouping of “berries” gave us great treats like mixed berry ice cream, which may confuse botanists and non-Germanic language speakers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *