When planning to grow black raspberries, choosing between cultivars can be hard. Fortunately, the University of Maryland Extension, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Fruits & Vegetables program determined which ones are the best for our climate and are the most disease resistant.
Bristol: Large fruit with excellent flavor. Good for eating, freezing, canning. High yields. Widely used in the eastern United States. Early season
Jewel: Improvement over Bristol Use fresh or processed. Early season. Concentrated ripening habit (two to three pickings).
Haut: Medium-sized. Early season, but ripen over a long period of time.
Allen: Very large fruit. Fresh or processed. Harvest period is short, but bears a large percentage of the crop in a few pickings. Early to mid-season
On the other hand, these cultivars are not easy to find in your regular garden store or big-box store. Often, older cultivars like the “Cumberland” black raspberry are widely available but I saw a“Jewel” at Lowe’s - bare root with a runner. I also spied a 2-3 year old potted “Jewel” at our favorite garden center in northwest Howard County. Your choice between a bare root or a plant depends on how quickly you want results. Normally a bare root with a runner will take 3 years before reaching full maturity. A potted plant will be close to maturity in its second year.
In both cases:
• Can be planted in spring (mid- to end of march) or end of summer (mid-August to mid-September)
• Remove blossoms during the first year when planted in springtime to improve root development.
• Plant in soil containing 50% of organic matter
• Do not cover with more than 2” of soil or compost.
At home, we grow mostly the “Black Hawk” cultivar. Commercially, this cultivar is widely use in the northwest part of the USA. We chose it because it was available at our garden center 6 years ago and because when thawed from the freezer, the raspberries keep their shape and the firmness.
If you want to encourage local research, try the “Haut” cultivar. It was developed by the University of Maryland Rubus breeding program in 1987. It’s an improvement over “Bristol” and “Cumberland” cultivars.