Washington Red Raspberry Commission

Raspberries have been
enjoyed for centuries

A Brief History of Red Raspberries

 

The red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) is indigenous to Asia Minor and North America. Fruits were gathered from the wild by the people of Troy in the foothills of Mt. Ida around the time of Christ. Records of domestication were found in 4th century writings of Palladius, a Roman agriculturist, and seeds have been discovered at Roman forts in Britain. Therefore, the Romans are thought to have spread cultivation throughout Europe.

In Medieval Europe, wild berries were considered both medicinal and utilitarian. Their juices were used in paintings and illuminated manuscripts. During this period, only the rich partook of their tasty bounty. King Edward I (1272 - 130 7) is recognized as the first person to call for the cultivation of berries; and by the seventeenth century, British gardens were rich with berries and berry bushes. By the eighteenth century, berry cultivation practices had spread throughout Europe.

When settlers from Europe came to America, they found Native Americans already utilizing and eating berries. Due to the nomadic nature of this culture, berries were dried for preservation and ease of transportation. Settlers also brought cultivated raspberries that were native to Europe with them to the new colonies. The first commercial nursery plants were sold by William Price in 1771.

In 1761, George Washington moved to his estate in Mount Vernon where he began to cultivate berries in his extensive gardens. By 1867 over 40 different varieties were known. After the Civil War, major production areas emerged in the regions of New York, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana. By 1880, approximately 2,000 acres were in cultivation.

Today, the leading producing regions for red raspberries are Washington, Oregon and California. However, at over 70 million pounds per year grown on 9,600 acres, Washington accounts for over 70% of the U.S. production of frozen red raspberries.

All contents © 2013 Washington Red Raspberry Commission