June 20th, 2010
2010-05-30. After a good rainfall, the raspberries plumped up invitingly.
Some of you have been waiting almost as impatiently as I have for the outcome of the great Austin raspberry experiment. In February, 2009 I dug deep and built a raised bed and planted raspberries. Raspberries are not recommended for Austin because our summers are too hot and our soil is too alkaline. But I had come across a variety, ‘Dorman’, which was supposed to be able to take our climate. And, well. I love raspberries.
Difficult as it was to wait for raspberries for an entire year, I followed the advice to pinch off the flowers the first year. Raspberries produce best on last year’s canes. Every year after the harvest, the old canes are thinned out to make room for the new canes on which next year’s fruit grows. The canes shot up to the top of the trellis, eight feet, and then curved down to the ground. Raspberries come in different forms and ‘Dorman’ is a rambling raspberry. Where the tip of the longest cane touched the ground it rooted. I now have a fourth raspberry plant (growing in completely unamended clay).
2010-04-10. Raspberry flowers.
The raspberries survived the summer of second-most 100° days in Austin. They survived the big freeze in January 2010. They grew lush with all the extra rain and cooler days we had between September and April. On April 18th, they began flowering. I watched them like a bird for a month. Nothing. When we came back on May 25th from a week away, some raspberries had ripened. The birds had eaten most of the ripe ones. We covered the canes in netting. We tasted some raspberries the birds had missed.
As the Japanese say, “Suppai!” They were both flavorless and a bit sour at the same time. (Perhaps the flavor was more astringent/alum flavor, like green persimmons–”shibui” than “suppai”.)
Perhaps we weren’t letting them ripen enough. Also, they hadn’t been watered the week we were gone. That week we had a nice rain and covered raspberries grew plump and deep red. The flavor did not improve. Over two weeks I ate raspberries every morning. I’m guessing I harvested about a quart of raspberries. And they were all bland and a bit sour. They were completely lacking in the unmistakable razzy raspberry flavor.
So, yes. It turns out we can grow raspberries in Austin. But if you grow ‘Dorman’ they aren’t really worth the effort. Next I will try to find a variety that is known for its flavor and see if I can trick it into tolerating Austin.
by M Sinclair Stevens in Austin, Texas