Raspberries & Blackberries
Raspberries and blackberries, known as “brambles” or caneberries because they grow on stiff canes, are both members of the rose family.
Botanically speaking they are not berries but aggregate fruits, comprised of drupelets formed from multiple ovaries within the same flower.
Raspberries and blackberries have been grown throughout the ages as a valuable food source and for medicinal purposes. Both can be found around the globe, but it is believed Asia may have been the birthplace of the highly perishable fruits, particularly red raspberries.
English growers popularized both raspberries and blackberries by the 1600s and brought cultivars to America, though the fruit was already growing in North America.
Red raspberries may originally have been introduced by prehistoric peoples; black raspberries and blackberries are thought to be native to North America and other parts of the world.
Although many states grow raspberries and/or blackberries, California, Oregon, and Washington contribute the lion’s share of supply for both fresh and processing volume. California dominates production in red and black raspberry varieties for the fresh market; Washington tops production for red raspberries destined for freezing or processing.
Growers in cooler climates generally grow raspberries, while blackberry production has risen in the Southeast in recent years.
British Columbia is a significant producer of raspberries for Canada; the True North is also the top export destination for U.S. fresh raspberry shipments.
Imported raspberries and blackberries principally come from Mexico. Raspberries are also widely cultivated in Russia and throughout Europe.
Types & Varieties
Brambles are grown as either fall-bearing (primocane) or summer-bearing (floricane) varieties. Fall-bearing plants can produce berries in their first year; summer-bearing do not bear fruit until their second year.
Newer primocane varieties of blackberries can produce summer crops, fall crops, or both. Use of thornless cultivars is especially desired for the fresh market due to harvesting by hand. Increased use of high tunnels is now prolonging the season and harvest window for both fruits.
Raspberries are primarily available in red and black varieties, though purple (a cross between red and black varieties) and yellow (a mutation of red cultivars) can be found as well.
One of the earliest varieties was Latham; subsequent cultivars were Meeker and Willamette, followed by many others. Among the popular hybrids are Tulameen, Heritage, Algonquin, Allen, Brandywine, Bristol, Coho, Caroline, Cowichan, Killarney, Kiwigold, Malahat, Saanich, Summit, and Titan.
Major commercial blackberry varieties for the U.S. fresh market include Apache, Chester, Natchez, Navaho, Osage, Ouachita, Prime-Ark 45, and Triple Crown, but there are many other proprietary varieties.
Tupy is the most common variety grown in Mexico for winter export, while Marion and Columbia Star are common in the Pacific Northwest (although most Pacific Northwest berries go for processing and Marion is too soft for the fresh market).
Raspberries and blackberries should be grown in full sun and prefer rich, well-drained, sandy-loam soil that is slightly acidic. Adequate insect pollination is required to prevent underdeveloped fruit with few drupelets.