Gardening: Cream of the crop

Hybrid berries are delicious and easy-to-grow ingredients for a favourite, all-the-year-round dessert

For weeks now we have been truffling like pigs through the crops of the kitchen garden: asparagus, globe artichokes, young spinach, baby broad beans, rocket, land cress (makes wonderful soup), salad leaves of exotic frilliness. I've forgotten what the inside of a greengrocer's shop looks like.

At the moment we are berrying: raspberries, loganberries, tayberries and gooseberries, with an occasional foray into the currant bushes for diversion. I've been making summer puddings, the best way of reminding yourself on a foul November's night that there was once such a thing as a summer's day. They freeze brilliantly. Apart from the fruit itself, all you need is a set of plastic bowls with snap-on lids and some staleish white bread. Sliced won't do. It's too pappy.

Cut the loaf into generous slices. Take the crusts off the bread and use it to line the basins. Meanwhile, tip a mixture of soft fruit into a saucepan. You can use any combination, but it must include raspberries. My basic mix is made up from a pound each of gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, loganberries and raspberries. Black cherries are a good addition. If you are using gooseberries, put them in the bottom of the saucepan, because they take longer to soften than any of the other fruits. Add sugar, but not too much of it.

Cook the fruit gently, until it is just soft. Don't let it turn to mush. Tip the mixture into the bread-lined bowls and use another slice of bread (without crusts, of course) to cover the fruit. When the puddings have cooled, snap on the plastic lids and put the bowls into the freezer. Eat summer pudding cold, accompanied by lashings of cream.

The easy promiscuity of the raspberry and blackberry tribes has resulted in a vast number of hybrid berries such as boysenberry and tayberry. Those hybrids have then themselves been crossed, to produce fruits such as the hildaberry. Jostaberries and worcesterberries, however, are different. They are the children of gooseberry and blackcurrant parents.

The first and most famous of the hybrid berries is the loganberry, bred more than a century ago by Judge Logan of California. He produced it by crossing a raspberry with a blackberry. Almost a hundred years later, the same cross spawned the tayberry, bred in 1962 by Dr David Jennings at the Scottish Crop Research Institute. Both take up a great deal of space - at least 10ft of wall, or more. So how do you choose between them?

Loyal defenders of the tayberry point out that Jennings had better raspberries and blackberries available to him when he made his cross. He used a vigorous American blackberry called `Aurora' and a tetraploid raspberry known tersely as 626/67. But the tayberry flavour isn't quite as intense as that of a well-ripened loganberry. Both used to be hideously prickly, but now you can get thornless types of both. Look for LY654 if you want a loganberry, or the cultivar `Buckingham' if you decide on a tayberry.

I'm still faithful to the loganberry, but for entirely unscientific reasons. My grandmother grew them in her square, secret garden, walled round with red brick. The river Usk lay between her house and ours. When we visited her, my mother and I used to walk down to the river, where a ferryman winched us across the river in an ancient, flat-bottomed punt.

My grandmother, who had been tossed by a bull in her youth, always walked as though she had one foot on the pavement and one in the gutter. Trying to match her extraordinary, rocking-horse rhythm, we would follow her down the garden path, past rows of fat-faced double daisies, and feast on loganberries gathered into dock leaf cups.

Many of my own choices in the garden are made on similarly irrational grounds. But if you had to "compare and contrast" the two, as examination papers used to say, what would you find? Tayberries don't like cold winters and if frosted, the canes die back quite severely, though the plant itself eventually recovers. Both, when established, should yield about 14lb of fruit from each clump of canes. Tayberries are slightly bigger than loganberries: less picking per pound. Both fruit in July and August, though the tayberry is marginally earlier than the loganberry.

There are other hybrid berries, of course. The sunberry is a more recent hybrid, released in the early Eighties. Its parents are an anonymous blackberry and the well-known raspberry `Malling Jewel'. It grows vigorously, with strong, unpleasantly spiny canes that need careful training. The cropping period is shorter than the tayberry's, from the second week in July to the third in August. The yield is about the same. But it is more of a blackberry than a raspberry.

The Tummelberry is more winter-hardy than the tayberry, but the flavour has no kick. The Japanese wineberry looks pretty, with its bright red winter stems, but the fruits are small, with little flavour.

All the hybrid berries need roughly the same treatment. They hate waterlogged soil and are unlikely to do well where there is only a thin skim of earth over chalk. They can be planted at any time between October and March. Set them quite shallowly in the soil, to encourage plenty of new suckers. If you are planning to put in more than one, leave 10-12ft between plants. A mulch of well-rotted manure or compost will help enormously.

If you are training hybrid berries on wires, fix the first wire about 3ft from the ground with another three rows of wire above it, fixed at intervals of a foot. Tie the growths securely along the wires, keeping the new canes bunched up in a fountain in the middle and the older, fruiting canes trained horizontally away from the centre of the bunch. When you have finished picking the fruit, cut out the old canes, unbundle the new ones and tie them in where the old ones used to be.

If you live in a really cold area, you may find it better to leave the bundle of new canes lying on the ground all winter, and tie them up in spring. Research at the national fruit collection at Brogdale has shown that canes treated like this suffer less from die-back and other effects of intense cold.

A rich selection of raspberries, blackberries, loganberries and other hybrid berries is listed in Highfield Nursery's catalogue. Contact them at Whitminster, Gloucester, Glos GL2 7PL (01452 740266). The nursery is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm.

At the Brogdale Horticultural Trust you will find the national collection of fruit - more than 4,000 varieties (2,000 of those are apples). The Trust is at Brogdale Road, Faversham, Kent ME13 8XZ (01795 535286). It is open from Easter to Christmas, daily from 9.30am to 5.30pm. Admission costs pounds 2 and includes a guided tour

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own