Here’s where the raspberries for our cordial come from

the foot of the Rila mountains

Today we take a walk at the foot of the Rila mountains, to show you where the raspberries for our cordial come from.

In the first days of October we invite you into Radostin’s raspberry gardens, where we’re currently picking beautiful fruit to use in our favourite raspberry cordial, raspberry jam and probiotic yogurt drinks.
We arrive at the gardens at 9 am sharp and the rows are already buzzing with berry-pickers on the job. The women have filled several crates each and start joking that it’s much more fun to actually eat the raspberries than to photograph them.
Radostin tells us proudly that the variety of raspberries they’re picking is called Lulin – the first Bulgarian variety of remontant raspberries. That means they bear fruit twice a year. From July all the way to November the bushes blossom and their berries ripen. The Bulgarian variety was developed in 1981 by Lubomir Hristov and is more resistant to fungus than other varieties. Around the world there are over 500 different raspberry varieties with different characteristics. But Lulin was specially selected for the local conditions and its berries are plump, juicy and sweet.
Radostin shows us some blossoms that are yet to turn into fruit and will likely be picked in the beginning of November, when they will be completely ripe. It’s not unheard of for the workers to wade in snow to gather the last berries still on the bush.
The berry-pickers, some of whom have been working here for over a decade, say this year’s harvest isn’t great because there was too much hail in the spring. They say that on a good year the raspberry bushes can reach up to two metres in height.
Between the rows we see these weird little boxes hanging and we ask Radostin what they are. We find out they’re traps for the drosophila suzukii – a family of fruit flies that are a major pest of raspberries. In the traps there’s cider vinegar and a bit of odourless soap. If flies are found inside, measures need to be taken instantaneously. In two weeks these tiny insects can reach such numbers that they can destroy entire fields of raspeberries. And how do you deal with pests, when you’re growing your berries the organic way? Conventional raspberries can be sprayed with pesticides but in organic farming only natural pest repellents such as neem oil can be used. It drives the bugs away naturally, without poisoning the air or the fruit.
Radostin is from Samokov and he tells us there was a time when the area was known for its raspberries. There were over 6000 decares of raspberry bushes here. We don’t fully believe him because to us Samokov is only famous for its potatoes. .
As we head back home we spot something that supports his story – the street going out of Samokov in the derection of Malyovitsa is called “Rila Raspberry”.

 

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