Sandy’s Garden ... Raspberries

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

A copy of Thompson and Morgan’s Autumn Catalogue plumped through our letterbox last week.

It offered – among other delights and using the company’s capital letters – Pre-planted Pots and Baskets, Perennials, Trees Shrubs & Climbers, Beautiful Bulbs, Grow Your Own Fruit and Garden Equipment. Given that we are very much in the heart of the Scottish soft fruit season … soft fruit being defined as ‘any of various types of small edible stoneless fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries and currants’ … and that we always buy Scottish-grown soft fruit when it is in season, my curiosity encouraged me to ascertain which raspberry cultivars are included in this catalogue. There are three – Autumn Bliss, Glen Ample and Glen Prosen, all described as ‘British-bred, heavy cropping varieties.’ And, gentle reader, while Autumn Bliss was bred at East Malling Research in Kent, you have probably guessed that Glen Ample and Glen Prosen are Scottish-bred varieties, having been developed at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) in Invergowrie beside Dundee. The SCRI’s ‘Glen’ series of cultivars currently occupy more than 90% of the raspberry market in Scotland, with Glen Ample being the most widely grown raspberry cultivar in the UK.

Well, the Scottish Crop Research Institute became part of The James Hutton Institute in 2011; and the James Hutton Institute’s role in raspberry development is most simply explained in its own words: ‘James Hutton Limited manages the breeding programme of the Raspberry Breeding Consortium (RBC); a partnership of growers, marketing groups, propagators, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the Scottish Government. The RBC was born out of the need to ensure the UK raspberry industry evolves in line with consumer tastes and trends as well as modern growing and production systems. Its purpose is to create new, targeted and improved raspberry varieties, a process accelerated via the innovative science of the James Hutton Institute. Recent successes include Glen Carron, Glen Dee, Glen Ericht and Glen Fyne.’

Notice that the Scottish Government is involved in funding research into - and the development of - new raspberry cultivars; and the importance of this work is shown by the fact that the raspberry breeding programme at the James Hutton Institute has been phenomenally successful and is perhaps best known for the ‘Glen’ series of cultivars which are grown throughout the world. The significance of this is revealed in these words: ‘James Hutton Limited has an extensive portfolio of more than 40 plant varieties, many of which are protected by Plant Variety Rights and are available for licensing worldwide.’ In plain words, the Scottish economy benefits from growers all around the world paying handsomely for licences to grow Scottish-bred fruit cultivars because these are the very best available.

Of course, we are not alone in seeking to benefit from investment in developing better cultivars - better-tasting, more disease resistant, better-looking, producing bigger yields for longer – which appeal to consumers and to growers alike, albeit for sometimes different reasons. Ailsa and I both noticed what we thought were particularly attractive, locally-grown raspberries in a local supermarket just the other day; and they were every bit as tasty as they looked. The variety, we learned from the label, was ‘Lagorai,’ a cultivar we had never encountered before. To quote from the introduction to US patent USPP25636P3: ‘The new raspberry variety Lagorai Plus was obtained by open pollination of hybrid raspberry plant Tulameen at Faver, Province of Trento, Region of Trentino, Italy.’ It’s delicious; it’s being grown in Scotland; and it has been developed in Italy! Who would have expected that?