Red raspberries are a summer staple across Canada. Originating in Europe, they were introduced to North America in the late 1700s and today thrive in the wilds and backyards alike. However, 80% of the cultivated raspberries you buy in the supermarket are produced in the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia.
Raspberries are available in a multitude of varieties but can be categorized into colour types. The most common varieties available commercially are the red varieties but raspberries also come in yellow/gold and purple or black.
How to Buy:
Look for dry brightly coloured berries that are plump and firm. Avoid packaging with high amounts of condensation, moist or wet berries or any with signs of mildew.
How to Store:
Store in the refrigerator in their original packaging, or transfer to a breathable plastic container. Don’t wash until just before use to avoid spoilage.
Raspberries freeze very well. Lightly rinse them and spread them out on paper towel to remove excess moisture. Then move them to a cookie sheet in a single layer before placing them in your freezer until frozen (4 – 5 hours). Once frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer bag or air-tight container where they will keep for 10 to 12 months. Frozen raspberries are a refreshing summer treat, a perfect addition to smoothies and a vitamin-packed topping to your morning granola.
How to Prepare:
Raspberries are a delicious treat eaten fresh right after harvest but can also be frozen, canned in syrup, or turned into preserves or juices. Their strong sweet and sometimes tart flavour and delicate skin make them an ideal ingredient for baked goods and dessert toppings alike.
Lightly rinse in cool water immediately before using. Try these recipes:
Red raspberries are a good source of vitamins A and C, fibre and health promoting antioxidants.
How Raspberries are Grown:
Raspberries are ready to harvest in July, August and sometimes into September each year depending on your growing area. The berries from a single plant ripen at different rates, so multiple pickings are required to harvest the whole crop. This can take about four weeks, depending on the variety. Berries have to be picked when they’re plump and red because they do not continue to ripen after being removed from the plant (called a cane). Fresh raspberries for grocery stores and farmers markets are picked by hand when ripe and berries for freezing or processing can be mechanically picked towards the end of the season.
The majority of BC’s raspberry production is located in the Fraser Valley region where the canes are planted in long rows that are fortified against the wind. The delicate berries are handpicked when perfectly ripe and put directly into the packaging to ensure quality as they are only handled once. From the field, they go into a cooler and are shipped directly to the grocery store within 24 hours to ensure freshness.
In Ontario and Quebec, raspberries are commonly produced using the ‘high-tunnel’ method. This requires long open-ended tents, or tunnels, to be erected over the raspberry crop to protect the delicate berries from damage by hard rains and winds knocking them on the ground. The berries are then watered with drip irrigation which increases their production capacity and reduces rot from wet weather. These raspberry canes are often planted in pots instead of directly into the ground.
Fun Fact: Raspberry canes don’t produce any fruit in their first year of life as they take one year to mature. At the end of the growing season, the spent canes (which will no longer produce fruit that year) are pruned out and the fruit bearing plants go dormant over winter.
Canadian Crop is Available: July – September
Red Raspberries are Grown in: British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec