Innovating Soft Fruits
How Angus farmers are optimising berry production (and where to pick the fruit)
Soft fruit is an important agricultural crop in Angus, as the many acres of polytunnel testify, and the soil and climate of Northeast Scotland has long been acknowledged as offering excellent growing conditions for raspberries, strawberries and, now, cherries, blackberries and blueberries. But that doesn't mean Angus berry farmers are resting on their laurels.
Started in 2012 as an experiment in growing, Stead Nicolle's small-scale cherry-farming business at Rosehill Farm, Inverkeilor, has settled on a method from Washington, USA, to extend the cherry season. Grown under cover, the cherries benefit from high light levels in the summer – making their season later than any other cherries grown in the UK, from July until the end of September. The farm's proximity to the sea also cuts down on frost levels.
The Angus climate might not be comparable to that of New Zealand, but Kate Porter of East Scryne Farm still manages to make a success of her Karaka Black blackberries, half a world away from their point of origin.
'They're big berries, very long and narrow,' she says, 'and they have no husks, so you can put the whole thing in your mouth. They're very popular and very different – tart but sweet at the same time, but it's the texture which sets them apart: they have a lovely consistency.'
If you want to get out into the fields (or under the polytunnels), head to Charleton Fruit Farm in Montrose, one of the few places you can still pick your own. Long-held as a classic family outing, seasonal PYO is available alongside a children's adventure playground, coffee shop and farm shop.