This year has been really successful for soft fruit. Despite that frosty spell we had in May all the soft fruit seems to have done really well. This is partly because the fruit bushes are starting to get more mature. Larger bushes = more fruit.
The first lot of raspberries in the fruit garden, which I’m starting to call the fruit jungle, were ripening over a week ago. They took me by surprise when I went to put some weeds on the compost heap in there. I have picked two batches of raspberries. On the 14th July, picking all the ripe fruit in the fruit jungle and the front garden, I picked 10oz of good quality raspberries and 2lb 4oz of less cosmetically perfect fruit for jam. Three days later on the 17th July again I picked all the ripe raspberry fruit, achieving 6oz perfect fruit, and 2lb 3oz jamming fruit. A small punnet of redcurrants from the tea garden, cooked separately and sieved into the raspberry pulp, gave a soft but satisfactory set to the raspberry jam. Raspberries are rather low in pectin, so they need more adding to get a good set. I have used apples in the past, but it is quite satisfying to use my own fruit. Raspberry jam is one of my favourites, but two batches would see us through the year nicely. Unfortunately rather a lot of the jar lids have not sealed properly, so the jam will have to be eaten sooner rather than stored. This means I may have to make another batch of jam so that we have enough to last.
I have several other raspberries varieties which are still establishing – Glen Prosen in the dog resistant garden, Malling Jewel and Autumn Bliss in the tea garden. and an unknown from AC on the hump overlooking the orchard and leach field. I am also thinking that the leach field may be a good place to plant another patch of raspberries. They are shallow rooting, and the spot is very sheltered in between the hump and the orchard.
The gooseberries have had the best crop this year that I have ever seen. From the three bushes in the dog resistant garden I picked 4 1/2 lb, 5lb 4oz, and 2 1/2 lb. Some of the fruit was a little hard still, but some had already fallen from the bushes as overripe. This variety is Invicta, which is supposed to be more mildew resistant. I don’t know about that. The bush is not too prickly, and the fruit is pale green, large and slightly hairy, going very slightly on the pink side of yellow when super ripe. It is sweet enough to eat straight from the bush when really ripe. I picked them all over – topping and tailing them with my fingers, and selecting the larger, nicer looking fruit to sell. The rest I bagged up and put in the freezer in the short term. I’m hoping to make chutney with those. Locally not everyone has done so well, with problems such as mildew and sawfly really affecting crops, so I feel very lucky this year.
There are two more Invicta gooseberry bushes in the fruit jungle, only one of which is fruiting well. These still want a bit more ripening, which is odd, since I thought they get more sun there than in the dog resistant garden. I have a different variety, Pax, in the tea garden. It is a red variety, but suffered from wind there, is rather lop sided, and does not have enough growth yet to produce a good crop.
There are still more redcurrants ripening on the bush that I was picking in the tea garden, as well as on an adjacent bush which has fruit that are just starting to turn colour. I may puree and freeze some to use as pectin additive, and I quite fancy some redcurrant jelly as well. I think the one I have been picking is Cherry and the one yet to ripen is Rovada. The varieties were selected to give a spread in the harvest.
The blackcurrants I finally got round to picking this week. I now officially have more blackcurrants than I use myself. I picked about 9 lb of my Ben Sarek blackcurrants this week when the weather was lovely and warm (we never got the horrid hot weather they had further south – just low 20s with a nice breeze). There would have been far more to pick, but I left it rather late, so many had fallen off the bushes or gone soft. The main crop is in the fruit jungle, however I have been planting cuttings in the orchard and further down the tree field, and some of these are now also starting to fruit well. The other varieties in the tea garden (Ben Gairn and Byelorussian Sweet) are also ripe, so could do with picking now too.
Blackcurrant planted in tree field (recently mulched)
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