THE TALE OF A HAPPY BERRY
A HAPPY BERRY should grow better, ripen early, be sweeter, beam with a rich deep colour and shine with happiness.
They get sweeter as the season progresses - at their peak they are very sweet – great for syrups.
Several years ago Russell asked himself – “If I were a berry vine, what would make me happy so that I would produce happy berries?”
The answers he came up with have been put into practice at Cherrytime Orchard.
The berries’ roots run deep and flourish in the rich red granitic sub-soil which has decomposed from the Warby rocks over many years. The top layer of black top soil is rich in nutrients to nourish the plants as they grow.
The berry vines are grown in north-south rows maximizing the effects of the early morning sun while being protected from the hot, late afternoon, summer sun by the Warby Range.
On winter mornings when the Ovens Valley is layered in fog, the slopes of the Warby Range are more often than not in sunshine.
When the first flowers appear in mid- October, hundreds of happy bees fly in to pollinate them as they fill their bee hives, placed among the vines, with honey.
Soon berries start to take shape on the vines, nourished by the pure rain water from above, or filtered through the micro sprinklers.
The bottom 2 feet (under the vine) is kept clean of foliage and fruit to prevent the fruit coming into contact with the soil and becoming dusty and contaminated and to enable the vines to be watered at their roots so that the fruit does not get unduly wet.
Because one of the parents of this species is the wild blackberry these vines are tough – they have no pests or diseases like other fruit – no brown rot, no curly leaf, no aphids, no cherry slug. They do not have to endure any harsh chemical sprays, being fed only natural nutrients.
“Our berries have a blissful existence, turning their dew-laden faces to greet the rising sun in the morning… and then, what a view awaits them – 360o of hills, mountains, valleys and the endless sky.”
They are allowed to grow naturally on a well-drained gentle slope where their feet are never too wet, as the rains drain away quickly into the granitic sub soil.
No-one is happy when sunburnt – neither are berries. 75% shade cloth on the little ‘roof frames’ over the berry rows keeps the hot sun off the berries between 11.00am and 3.00pm. Since initiating this practice over the last couple of harvest seasons very little fruit has been lost to sunburn.
In late springtime each berry is tenderly and lovingly picked by gentle hands as the first rays of sunshine peep over the distant mountains. They are then carefully taken to our newly built cool-room and chilled immediately to give them the maximum shelf life possible.
Russell has had over 30 years experience working with berries – trialing many varieties of berries and various growing and pruning techniques so that he could produce the biggest and yummiest berry you’ll ever taste.
Joy makes sure that no berry is overlooked. They all have potential. If they do not make it into the first class punnet, there is always a place for them in a delicious jam or syrup.
The berries who do make it into the first class punnets are destined for local restaurants or markets.
First class and jam class berries are sold at the orchard’s farm gate or local farmers’ markets.
Once the picking has finished the old wood of the vines is cut off the wires and discarded. New runners which will have grown along the ground during the picking season are trained up onto the wires and will become the next season’s fruit bearers.
With the load of that dead wood off their minds it is only a matter of weeks before the vines fill the wires with new growth and by the end of autumn the bushes are nearly as leafy as they will be when the flowers arrive in spring.