Small-Fruits


Many crops of small fruits were grown on the slopes of the Collinsvale hills (AOT, PH30/1/1785)

From 1806 the Rev Robert Knopwood reported that gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and 'English currents' were grown in the settlement. Tasmania proved to have an excellent climate for small-fruits, but at first cultivation was limited. With small-fruits extremely perishable, home consumption and local markets were the only outlets. After jam factories were set up from the 1850s, cultivation developed. Raspberry jam in particular was popular, and blackcurrants were made into cordial these two were by far the largest crops with strawberries, gooseberries, cherries and redcurrants also grown. Many housewives made their own jam, jellies and cordials. Almost all small-fruit was grown in the south of the island, in particular on the steep slopes of the Huon and Derwent valleys, and crops were mostly grown by small farmers, or as part of a larger farm. Crop sizes in 1914 were: raspberries 1212 tonnes; currants 1037 tonnes; gooseberries 43 tonnes; strawberries 34 tonnes; cherries 134 tonnes.

Crops were large in the 1940s; in 195051, 4051 tonnes of raspberries were produced, and loganberries, a new fruit, were overtaking strawberries in popularity. Production declined from the 1950s as jam became less popular. However, from the 1980s air travel made export of fresh fruit to mainland and overseas markets viable, and jam making resurfaced, usually in boutique industries like Doran's Jams, established in 1834 and in 2004 claiming to be Australia's oldest jam factory, though a year later it closed. Cascade continued to make blackcurrant cordial, with currants by far the largest crop (400 tonnes in 2002). The emphasis changed to large-scale cultivation most small-fruit comes from ten major producers with strawberries (250 tonnes) and raspberries (150 tonnes) providing 60 percent of industry value, while fresh cherries are exported to the mainland. There has been diversification: some blueberries were grown from the 1980s, and in 1999 Ichigo began growing strawberries at Cambridge for export to Japan out-of-season.

Alison Alexander