June 20th, 2010
Raspberry ‘Dorman’

raspberry Dorman
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).

raspberry Dorman
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”.)

raspberry Dorman

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.

raspberry Dorman

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

13 Responses to post “Raspberry ‘Dorman’”

  1. From Annie in Austin:

    Sorry the berries weren’t what you’d hoped, MSS – we grew Latham red raspberries in IL but also grew the wild black raspberries and once you taste them, the reds are all second-rate.

    This website is from NC, so also pretty hot climate. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/ag569.html . This quote from the website confounds me!

    “The fruit of Dormanred does not have true red raspberry flavor and aroma, and it has an unpleasant aftertaste. In spite of its less than desirable flavor, Dormanred is a particularly good berry for cooking and processing.”
    So even if it tastes crappy you should grow lots so you can save some for later???

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Thanks for the link. That’s a good resource. Actually it was my thought, too, that they might make good jam…lots of sugar might make the tart sparkle. AJM seemed more sensitive to the “unpleasant aftertaste”. I didn’t mind them being sour but what disappointed me was as this site says, Dorman Red “does not have a true red raspberry flavor.” Did you read the requirements for happy raspberries. Temperatures in the 70s. Austin’s lows are already in the mid-to-high 70s. — mss

  2. From Carol:

    Well, shoot. They do look pretty and no one can say you didn’t try to like them. Good luck in your quest.

  3. From Caroline - Austin:

    Those are gorgeous red raspberries — sorry the flavor is so disappointing. Perhaps some raspberry jam is in order. I’ve grown Blackhawk black raspberries for two years now. The fruit is delicious, but each year a fungus has caused the producing canes to wither and die just as the fruit is ripening. Birds got most of this year’s meager crop. I bought a dewberry plant at the Wildflower sale which I’m hoping will do better.

  4. From renee (renee's roots):

    What a shame they don’t taste as good as they look, Mss. Hope you find a good tasting berry that will tolerate our growing conditions.

  5. From Pam/Digging:

    Bummer. They are really pretty. Too bad the flavor isn’t worth the bother.

  6. From Diana - Austin:

    They are stunningly beautiful. So sorry the flavor didn’t deliver. Guess that’s why it’s an experiment, but it’s a fascinating undertaking and I loved reading about it. My plums are still a work in progress – hoping they sweeten up and grow a little more. Good luck with the next test!

  7. From Julie:

    Highly recommended for embedding in crowns and other royal ornaments.

    Your persistence is an amazing thing.

    I don’t know if I’d chalk it up to persistence or to desire. We love raspberries and they’re expensive. I really wanted the experience of grazing in the raspberry patch that I have when we visit England. –mss

  8. From Vertie:

    Beautiful berries. Such a shame they didn’t taste good. At least now you don’t have to worry about me sneaking over and “borrowing” a few.

  9. From Jenny Austin:

    How disappointing on the flavor front. Somehow they don’t quite look like raspberries, do they? More like a cross with something else. Are you sure they are completely ripe? Soil does make a difference. I feel the same way about tomatoes here. They are good but not nearly as good as when I lived in Canada.

    I initially thought that we had picked them before they were completely ripe. So after that I let them get very ripe–so ripe they were pushing the berry away from the cone–which is what distinguishes raspberries from blackberries–that they leave the cone behind when they are picked. I think they are some sort of weird hybrid. Someone else who saw the canes before they flowered declared that they weren’t at all like the raspberry canes they grew up north. Soil and temperature certainly do affect taste. I notice this a lot in my tomatoes, too…even the tomatoes on the same vine taste different depending on what part of the season they were growing in, how hot it was, and how much rain we’ve had. — mss

  10. From bangchik:

    The plants are really growing well and the shiny and juicy berries explain it all. It is so nice to hear about researches going on to tune up a particular plant for a specific region…. Even in our climate, people do grow grape.. thanks to research.

    ~bangchik

  11. From Pam:

    Ditto in every way…I’ve had Dorman in my South Carolina garden for five or so years, and while the berries are pretty, they are essentially flavorless. I haven’t gotten rid of them, and I still put them in fruit salads, but more as fillers for other fruits with a nice flavor. The jam idea might be a good one – sugar tends to solve all sorts of problems!

    I’m so glad to hear from someone else who has tried ‘Dorman’! I’m actually thinking of growing them along the chain link fence as a screen and to feed the wildlife. The birds liked the raspberries even if I found them tasteless. But I might try jam, too. — mss

  12. From Linda Lehmusvirta Austin Texas:

    Well, I’m still flat astounded they even lived! I like the screen and bird idea a lot. Or what about raspberry margaritas?!

  13. From Tyler Gainesville FL:

    I grow black raspberries in the heat of central Florida with success. You should try Mysore Raspberries, they are hardy to zone 11 and take freezes well. I’ve picked a large amount of delicious berries from my several plants. They get nice and sweet. Check out my blog to see them. http://farmertyler.blogspot.com/