NZ Heritage Berries
We hold a growing collection of NZ heritage berries including raspberries, currants, worcesterberries, gooseberries, blackberries and blueberries. These are berries that have been valued, grown and passed around by our ancestors here in New Zealand. We’d love to hear from you if you know of any heritage berries: gooseberries, currants, worcester berries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries etc. They are an important part of our cultural heritage and in the past they have played a vital role in meeting our nutritional needs. We hope to expand our collection of berries as they are so valuable and suitable for home gardeners.
Yellow raspberries have been in the Koanga Collection for many years, and over the past 15 or so years we have heard several stories about trampers finding them growing wild along old routes used by the goldminers, mostly in the South Island. The places these stories and plant material seem to mostly go back to are in Central Otago. It seems to me that the Chinese goldminers must have brought them to New Zealand, along with Chinese artichokes, Chinese sugar peas, and Gogi berries (along with much more I’m sure), during the goldrush years, and they have spread and became naturalised in those places they loved growing. The Chinese were obviously amazing gardeners and brought with them a very well thought out collection of plant material to provide for all of their food needs for their immediate future upon arrival here. There used to be acres of Gogi berries growing wild in Central Otago, but they have been taken out to plant vineyards I believe. (If any of you know where there might remain any of these original Gogi berries we would love to hear from you).
The yellow raspberries in our collection came from a variety of sources both from the South Island and the North Island. They were obviously once widespread. It is easy to see why, they simply taste very good. They are my favourite raspberries, and fruit very well all over NZ. I love to imagine them growing wild under the original apples in the Kazakstan forests (see page 42), and I wonder what our equivalent of that guild might look like in this land. We will certainly be planting them in our apple food forest this Winter. It seems that the original centre of diversity for raspberries is in the northern Turkey area, and that the yellow cultivars are variations or naturally occurring sports of the black and red cultivars. These are known to be more tender and sweeter.
These blackberries are not ramblers but low growing bushes. Out in the sheep paddock where they have naturalised on Logan Forrest’s place at Pouto on the Kaipara, the sheep nibble on them and they do not get out of control. They have been there over 100 years. In a vegetable garden or perennial bed they grow a little more vigorously, and they do have sharp thorns, however I persevere because I love the berries, and I love the fact that they are ripe and ready to eat at Christmas time. They flower prolifically and are much loved by the bees.
Logan Campbell says that Mrs McLeod (his grandmother) used to get her garden catalogues sent over from England. She ordered many of the special plants for her garden out of those catalogues, and they then came on the next boat!
I plant them 1m apart, one row in a perennial bed, and keep them heavily mulched so I don’t have to weed them. I take the old growth off each year after harvest and keep only as many suckers as I can easily cope with. I’m also going to trial planting them in our sheep paddock very soon.
We have recently received a large collection of blueberries, which came from one of our earliest commercial blueberry growers, Mr. Gordon Gibbons. He has recently written a letter about the history of blueberries in Taranaki, which we will publish soon on our website.