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Fruit : Hybrid Berries

Hybrid berries are crosses made between red raspberries and blackberries, and in some cases black raspberries which are grown in America. The best known of these is the loganberry which was bred by a Judge Logan in California in the 1880s from a red raspberry and a locl blackberry variety. The loganberry has long dark-red fruits, somewhat tart to taste, but good for jam and dessert. It ripens in stages which is good for continuity.

Since then lots of other crosses have been raised in an effort to improve flavour, size, colour, drought resistance or cold resistance. The boysenberry was raised by Rudolf Boysen, also in California, in the 1920s. This is quite sweet but can be a bit watery and it is drought resistant. The tayberry was bred by the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute as part of a breeding programme for cane fruits and released in 1979. The tayberry is like a large loganberry, good garden variety.

The tummelberry followed from the same breeding programme and it considered a better fruit with winter hardiness that the tayberry lacks and large bright red fruit of good flavour. There are others, less well known, such as youngberry, sunberry and silvanberry, unlikely to be available, while the ones mentioned are available though some searching might be necessary.

Cooking with hybrid berries

The hyrbid berries can be eaten fresh, although some are a little sour to taste, and they are very good for preserves, baking and juicing. They can be used with desserts, especially icecream and yogurt, as fresh fruit, purée, and coulis, and are superb for sorbets. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C with useful amounts of other vitamins and minerals, especially iron and potassium. These fruits contain significant amounts of tannins and antioxidants and act as anti-cancer agents.

Growing hybrid berries

Site and soil: Hybrid berries are generally vigorous and need good rich soil to crop well. However, they can tolerate less-than-ideal conditions and some shade too, especially loganberry. They are perfectly happy on a fence or wall and can use such space very effectively.

Varieties: Loganberry, sometimes offered as a thornless variety, ‘LY 654', fruits from late July to September; Tummelberry and Tayberry are somewhat earlier. There is a tayberry variety called ‘Buckingham' which is thornless. Usually one plant is enough because they need three or four metres of wall space.

Planting: Plant in the dormant season ideally, or at any time because these plants are usually available in pots. Prepare the ground well, digging in lots of well-rotted organic material over an are of about one square metre.

Training: The plants are more flexible than raspberries, more like blackberries with long shoots. They can be wall trained, or trained on wires supported by posts, wires at 60cm, 100cm and 140cm above soil. The plants fruit on the previous year's canes, so the young canes must be tied out of the way while the older canes fruit. This can be done in two ways. One way is to train the fruiting canes along the lower wires and tie the young canes up the centre and along the top wire, or the fruiting canes can be tied along the top two wires and the young canes bent down and loosely tied to the bottom wire.

Pruning: Pruning is done after fruiting in autumn. It consists of cutting away all the fruited shoots and tying in the young shoots in their place. The easiest way to do this is to wrap the new canes around the support wire, rope-like, and tie them to hold them in place. The fruiting side shoots will push out from these shoots.

Watering and feeding: The hybrid berries like plenty of humus and can be top-dressed with compost or well-rotted manure each winter. A shake of fruit fertiliser or general fertiliser in spring will produce heavier crops. Watering is not often necessary but the plants will respond to watering if the weather is very dry in late summer as cropping begins.

Picking: Hybrid are picked as they ripen and they have an advantage in this being spread over several weeks, due to the blackberry parentage. They can be picked and used fresh or frozen fresh. They freeze very well or purée or juice can also be frozen.

Troubles: Generally speaking, the hybrid berries are healthy and robust, not nearly as prone to pests and diseases as raspberries.

 

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