A guide to soft fruit growers of Scotland's North East
Aberdeenshire’s climate and soil are the perfect match for growing soft fruit and berries, as Emily Arbuthnott explains
Soft fruits are not only sweet in taste but also in success. Scottish-grown soft fruits have become a booming agricultural business over the past ten years, with raspberry sales alone bringing £12 million to the country’s economy. This in many ways can be attributed to the introduction of polytunnels in 1993. In being able to protect the berries, the fruit farms – which are all privately-owned, family-run businesses – have been able to extend the fruit season from May to mid-autumn where once it was limited to eight weeks in June and July. With nearly 90% of British berries attaining Grade 1 standard, the UK now dominates a market once filled with fruit imported from Spain, France and America.
The cool Scottish summers in Aberdeenshire provides soft fruit farms the perfect growing conditions for berry production, be they strawberries, raspberries or blueberries. Castleton, near Stonehaven, farm 39 acres of blueberries, alongside three varieties of raspberries and four varieties of strawberries in their polytunnels. They sell their fruit fresh or frozen from their farm shop as well as using it in their award-winning, handmade Berrylicious jams. The fruit is also incorporated into the menu in the Castleton café in dishes such as their renowned blueberry and lemon meringue tart. The farm shop was established in 2004, but it was in 1999 that the Mitchell family, who own Castleton, made the decision to stop dairy farming and concentrate on soft fruit production to a commercial scale. Today the majority of their soft fruit is sold to Marks & Spencer, Tesco and ASDA, as well as to local shops and delicatessens.
Not all soft fruit farms have farm shops, nor sell to supermarkets. Husband and wife team, Ross and Claire Rennie, were looking for something new to do with the soft fruit they grow on their Aberdeenshire farm. They decided to create a small and innovative company, Berry Scrumptious, and produce a range of handmade chocolates using freshly freeze dried berries. Their success in creating an array of chocolate-covered strawberry gifts has not gone unnoticed, with them being presented with a Bronze Grampian Food Forum Innovation Award for their Berry Fudge.
The soft fruit grown in Aberdeenshire has made buying local and seasonal produce not just easy but great, great fun.
Soft fruit farms in Aberdeenshire include Cairntradlin Fruit in Kinellar, Croft Organics in Inverurie and Strawberry Grange in Peterculter