Growers license new raspberries

Handful of raspberries
‘Double Gold’ and ‘Crimson Night’ are the fourth and fifth new berry varieties introduced by Associate Professor of Horticulture Courtney Weber in the past year. Other recent releases include Purple Wonder™, the darkest strawberry variety available, and the ‘Crimson Giant’ raspberry, suitable for high tunnel cropping systems with harvest into November. Photo: Robin Wishna

Berry Different: Growers turn to new Cornell raspberries for better flavor, disease-resistance and a colorful fall crop

By Kate Frazer

Two new raspberry varieties developed at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences —‘Double Gold’ and ‘Crimson Night’—were licensed this fall by two nurseries seeking flavorful, vigorous and disease-resistant raspberry varieties that can thrive in cold and unpredictable climates.

Designed for pick-your-own farms, farm stands and home gardeners by Associate Professor of Horticulture Courtney Weber at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), the berries have attracted interest from nurseries seeking varieties with intense flavor and a different look.

"I have been told by vendors at farmers markets that having several colors on display is a good way to draw in customers and distinguish yourself from other sellers," said Weber. "I'm hoping these berries fit that niche."

‘Double Gold’ produces a deeply blushed, golden champagne-colored fruit with a distinctive conical shape. It earned the "double" in its name because it produces a summer crop and a fall crop. In striking contrast to its blushing cousin, ‘Crimson Night’ caught Weber’s eye for its glossy, burgundy colored fruit.

But what first attracted Sam Erwin, owner and operator of Indiana Berry and Plant Co., to the berries wasn’t their color or shape but the legacy of their breeder.

“Courtney is one of the only people breeding raspberries for the Midwest and Northeast. Anything he comes out with is exciting,” Erwin said.

“What I’m looking for is a bigger fruit, good yield and excellent flavor. I mostly sell for the u-pick market and home gardeners. My customers include many smaller growers who like to avoid pesticides so disease resistance is also key.”

When seeking nurseries to propagate the raspberries Weber also reached out to Ed Awald, owner of Awald Farms in North Collins, N.Y. because he wanted to find a nursery to propagate them in the region in which they were developed.

“What’s important to me is taste, productivity and resistance to disease,” said Awald. “It will be an experiment; I’ll see how well they are accepted by consumers.”

Weber acknowledges that his new creations appeal to a particular audience. “They taste great but they’re also conversation pieces,” he said. “When you serve them at a dinner parties, there’s a story to tell.”

Still, ‘Double Gold’ and ‘Crimson Night’ have a lot more going for them than their curb appeal. Unlike the vast majority of berries on the market today, these varieties were built for the Northeast’s unique climate and production schemes.

Approximately 90 percent of U.S. raspberries are produced in Washington, California and Oregon, and Weber’s raspberry breeding program is one of just two programs east of the Mississippi.

“Growers know my varieties have been tested for disease tolerance and have been through the harsh winter,” said Weber. "Over eight years of testing, they’ve been consistently vigorous and resistant to Phytophthora root rot as well as most of the common leaf diseases."

Grown in a commercial high tunnel system that offers protection from the elements, ‘Crimson Night’ is vigorous and productive, and ‘Double Gold’ is the only golden raspberry on the market that bears two crops. Both varieties also provide growers with berries well into the fall. “They did not stop producing fruit until well into November,” said Weber.

“At a time in which many farmers markets are down to potatoes, root vegetables and greens, it’s a special surprise for customers to find this color and sweetness they associate with summer.”

Kate Frazer is the agricultural experiment stations communications officer at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.