National Geographic : 1951 Sep
Fruits That Grow Among the Brambles M ANY a bare-legged hiker, pausing as a bramble tore at his skin, has stayed to pick the fruit that grew on it. In almost any part of the temperate world, this fruit would probably be either of two closely re lated kinds, blackberries or raspberries. These two berries, both members of the rose family, have similar histories. Both are native to Asia, Europe, and North America. If raspberries go a little farther north (to the Arctic) and south (to the Equator), black berries are generally more abundant in tem perate regions. Both are quick to spring up in neglected fields, and for many years were more apt to be mowed or plowed under than cultivated. Their very abundance kept them from com mercial planting and scientific breeding until comparatively late in horticultural history. Raspberries were first mentioned in agri cultural writings by the Roman naturalist Pliny in the 1st century. He spoke of wild raspberries as having come from Mount Ida, in Greece. Centuries later the great Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus gave the name Rubus idaeus to the common form of the European red raspberry, because of this early reference to Mount Ida. "An Afternoones Dish to Please the Sicke" The raspberry was mentioned so seldom in early European writings that it is apparent that the fruit was of little importance. Not until 1629 did an English writer more than mention the fruit. In that year a work on orcharding devoted a short chapter to rasp berries. It described red and white kinds, and recommended them for "an afternoones dish to please the taste of the sicke as well as the sound." During the 19th century many varieties of high quality were selected or developed from breeding efforts, particularly in northern European countries. Raspberries there are mainly derived from the native European species, R. idaeus, and many of the varieties are richly flavored. In America early colonists found raspber ries growing abundantly. Two kinds were com mon, the red raspberry, R. idaeus strigosus, quite similar to the European, and a black fruited kind, R. occidentalis, now known as the black raspberry or blackcap raspberry. From these two American species, and from hybrids with the European species, our culti vated American varieties have been derived. Named varieties appeared in America at about the same time they did in Europe. Sev eral are named in the American Gardener's Calendar, published in 1806, one of the first books published in America dealing especially with gardening and orcharding. Beginning about the middle of the 19th century, great interest developed in America in the breeding of fruits, including rasp berries. The most prominent of the rasp berry breeders was Dr. William D. Brinckle, a physician who spent most of his life in Philadelphia. Fruit breeding was his avoca tion, and he introduced several excellent red raspberries. The variety now probably most widely grown, the Latham, was originated by the Minnesota Experiment Station. Blackberries Grow High and Low While blackberries have been divided into hundreds of species, two major kinds occur both in Europe and America. These are the upright growing forms and the prostrate, or trailing, forms, often called dewberries. How this name originated is uncertain. Perhaps it was because the berries frequently were covered with dew when gathered. The upright blackberries not only have stiff, erect canes but are generally very thorny. They propagate by suckers from the roots. In contrast, the trailing blackberries of Amer ica have slender canes, are much less heavily thorned, and do not sucker. The tips of the canes, if in contact with the soil, strike root and establish new plants. In general, the upright forms have a strong flavor, with a somewhat bitter aftertaste. The trailing forms are usually milder flavored. In America blackberries thrive in all except the coldest or driest parts of the coun try. They are particularly abundant along the eastern seaboard, west to the Plains, and throughout the southern half of the country. Texas is particularly rich in this fruit. Two very high-quality species of dewberries also grow along the Pacific Coast. In Europe blackberry culture seems to have occurred mainly in the past 50 years; in America it started somewhat sooner. In 1850 a bush-type variety, Dorchester, was named in Massachusetts, and remained a val uable variety for nearly half a century. About 1875 a dewberry, the Lucretia, was discov ered in West Virginia and transplanted to Ohio. This is still the leading dewberry in more northern latitudes. In recent years, three high-quality trail ing types have been widely grown. These are the Youngberry, bred by B. I. Young, a private breeder of Morgan City, Louisiana; the Loganberry, apparently a cross between the Pacific trailing type and the raspberry, which originated in the garden of Judge J. H. Logan at Santa Cruz, California; and the Boysenberry, a variety quite similar to Young berry, of chance origin in California. Unfor tunately, all are tender in the colder parts of the country.