Monday, November 24, 2014

Uncle Allies's Raspberry Preserve

raspberry plants
Fall 2014 - Last few berries
Growing native perennials to improve raspberry production

  I never intended our raspberry plants to ramble from one end of the garden to the next, eventually consuming a 10ft x 30ft area. I was merely interested in a few plants to provide and cover nourishment for birds like: chickadees, robins, blue jays who are brave enough to winter over in Ohio (USA). I blame my husband’s Uncle Allie for this expansive garden.

   Where was I going to put his green gifts? Space is a premium, as our backyard is less than a ½ acre. I will plant them later, I commented. “Oh no we need to get them in right now,” Uncle Allie chirped excitedly. His Irish heritage was brightly shinning; "why put off until tomorrow what you can do today," he reminded me.
   I lied; I have a spot all ready for them right over here next to the house. If Uncle Allie realized my lack of planning he said nothing, he simply dug 12 small holes and planted the root stalks right alongside: Wingstem, Wild Phlox, Mount-mint, Gray-headed Cone-flower, New England Aster and Bergamot. He assured me, there was no need to worry as raspberry plants can hold their own. Oh how right he was!

raberries growing with native ohio plants
Early Sunflower sharing space with raspberries - Fall 2014

  As time passed the raspberry patch became a protected entity, my own personal “raspberry preserve”. I fell in love with these fruit producing machines. If work need to be done on the house, say new windows then of course the project would have to wait until late fall. I certainly could not have men in steel tip boots tromping around in my gardens.


 Caring for your Raspberry Preserve!

  Raspberries seem to do very well without added fertilizer, or even organic pest sprays. It is a shame mine are not the native Ohio variety Rubus idaeus L. What is the saying about looking a gift horse in the mouth? All I know is they are Everbearing. Raspberries are 85% water, so it is important to give them a good soaking during summer hot spells. Adding a fine layer of leaves in the fall provides the roots with a bit of winter protection, decomposed mulch creates nice rich compost in the spring. What could be better than a low maintenance plant that provides food and shelter for wildlife attracts a diverse troop of native pollinator, and has the added bonus of supplying delicious, nutritious fruit?
late fall rasberries for wildlife
A few berries left for wildlife

  Uncle Allie was more than willing to share his knowledge of raising raspberries; I was happy and eager to listen. His first words of advice; it is important to cut the bushes down early in January, 6 inches from the ground. I assured him I would follow these instructions. How was I going to explain to him that I was interested in leaving the fruit on the canes for the wildlife? Strike two, I lied again. I cut the bare stalks down early in the spring with seemingly no adverse results.

  Suggestions two, buy Japanese Beetle bags when those pesky Japanese beetles arrive. Of course I will!  At 85 years old I wasn’t about to tell my dear friend that I really wouldn't consider spending money on traps that contain the Japanese Beetle hormone pheromone. I certainly didn’t have the heart to tell him I would prefer to wait for the predator wasps to arrive or for the neighbors to hang their beetle traps. Strike three?

New England Aster fall 2014 near raspberry patch
New England Aster - Near Patch Fall 2014

Recovery after the Japanese Beetle Attach - Fall 2024

  Admittedly the Japanese beetles do quite a lot of damage to the raspberry leaves; strangely no harm has ever fallen on the fruit. Luckily, these foreign pests prefer berry leaves over our native market plants. Hum. Everyone wins.

  Freezing Raspberries

One of the two bags that are still in the freezer
  The first year we only had a few berries at a time, Allie recommended we didn’t eat them rather collect several each day and "pop" them into the freezer. Spreading fruit on a cookie sheet is a trick he uses to prevent the berries from becoming a solid popsicle.

  Once the fruit is frozen it is easily stored until it is convenient to prepare jam. Finally, I truly listened. Four years later and I am still picking raspberries this way. I find myself feeling guilty when I scruff down a few ripe ones.

 Our 2014 season produced a bumper crop; we picked 10 - 2 gallons bags of berries. That is a lot of berries. To date I have made 45 jars a jam. I credit our success to the large variety of native pollinators that visit our patch; I am wagering that the diversity of native plants in our yard is directly related to the successful berry production. It certainly is not the result of my following the “rules’! 


Recipe for No Pectin Added Raspberry Jam 

Why Start Following Directions Now?

  I noticed if fruit smoothies sit for a while they became a think jelly like concoction. It dawned on me that the pectin in the fruit was thickening the drink, why not save money and use apples instead of expensive pectin? This trick works especially well! The jam takes a little longer to thicken and some batches are slightly watery, yet no one seems to mind the inconsistency!

jars of rasberry jam
Thankful for our Bounty!
11.5 cups of raspberries
6.5 cups of sugar
½ apple - skins too! Minus seeds

Blending in a powerful blender pulverizes both the raspberry seeds and the apple

Ball Blue Book a Guide to Preserving is an easy way to learn the ins and outs of canning.

Next spring I will be searching for Wild Raspberry bushes!

Dedicated to my friend Uncle Allie who is having trouble recalling my name.

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