Baba Berries

Baba Berries

Bababerries or Baba Raspberries are my favorite raspberry to grow.  I have tried many yellows and reds over the years, and Baba has been the best.  I first started growing them in the winter of 1999-2000 and have ever since.  They need about half day sun (shade some of the time, with about 4 to 6 hours of sun light)  here in Southern California. Morning Sun is better than afternoon sun since the harsh heat can burn the leaves early in the growing season.   Although a lot of East Coast sources recommend growing raspberries in full sun, around here all the folks I know who have success with raspberries grow them either in half day sun or open shade ( not under a tree or patio cover) on the side of a building.  Babas need regular supplemental water and loamy soil.  I water at least once a week in the dry season, and I also mulch heavily.  Drought will kill them.  As far as consistency, Babas aren’t crumbly like Heritage or some of the other reds sold around here.

bowl of bababerries best raspberry for socal
One days harvest of bababerries from the garden.

They are firm, about an inch in length, and have a sweet traditional red raspberry taste.  They are my favorite for the texture, nice size, flavor, and hardiness in our climate.  The other varieties I have grown have been lacking in at least one of those areas.  They have thorns, but not vicious like roses or some blackberries.

Since they are an everbearing variety, the plants can be cut to the ground for a single crop each year, or keep the canes for a second year and have a lighter May crop as well.  Both methods work, but cutting to the ground is the easiest to maintain a tidy plot and the fruit is larger on the method of cutting to the ground.  They get 4 to 6 feet tall.  Babas spread slowly by under ground roots, like other raspberries.  Where they are really happy, they can become invasive so provide an underground barrier to keep them out of where you don’t want them.  They need a little bit of support to keep them from falling over on to the ground.  Buy bare root right after Christmas up until the end of January in the stores, or order early from an online source.  Over the last 15 years, I have seen them at nurseries like Armstrong, Home Depot, and even Target, but most years, especially recently, no place local seems to sell them. carries them; they are in San Luis Obispo County.  (update from Jan. 2015-Most independent nurseries that buy from DWN started carrying them again. ) I ordered something from Bay Laurel many years ago, and I was happy with their customer service.  I have since noticed they sell out of Babas most years, so order early in the late fall for winter planting.  I sometimes will thin my different berry patches in January, and then sell the extras to local gardeners, usually at my neighborhood block yard sale in the late Spring.  Bababerry was patented in Dec. 1979 but it has since expired, therefore, asexual propagation is legal now.

What is the best raspberry for zone 10b
A branch of raspberries ready to picked

I moved my old patch in winter 09-10 from the hotter West facing side of my driveway to the East facing side.  This way I won’t have to add supplemental shade panels on really hot days while they are still putting on new leaf growth.  The leaves had a tendency to burn around the edges and turn black if it got too hot.  The chickens helped clean out the area last year. The bed sat fallow over the summer and fall. I added compost, watered, layered with newspaper, topped with straw mulch, and transplanted the berries while they were dormant during the winter. It has worked out well, but I still have to build a new support. It is turning into a jungle of berry canes. For now they are kind of sprawling into the cantaloupe growing nearby.

45 thoughts on “Baba Berries

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for your article. If you still read the comments, 🙂 could you please tell me when you cut them to the ground? After they produced fruit? Fall? Winter?
    Thank you!

  2. Hi Lianne, I did not manage them… I did not know what they were and just kept being disappointed for almost a year when each berry was inedible. That was 2013-14. My plants died (from neglect) when I moved to San Diego, but perhaps not unfortunately given the infestation. I only learned about the SWD in the last couple weeks by chance and how hard they are to get rid of. If I had known what they were, I would have culled every berry for some time to stop the spread. I do not know where they came from and my crop was truly small, so I am surprised in retrospect that they found me at all. It must mean the infestation is bad in NorCal. Hopefully they do not find me in San Diego. I have a Canby raspberry growing and you’ve inspired me to try baba berry sometime.

  3. Lianne, have you encountered any spotted wing drosophila (drosophila suzukii) in your raspberries? They leave tiny worms that you find inside the hollow of the berry when you pick it. I had them in my yard in Northern California and wonder if they will find my berries now that I’ve moved to Southern California. They are a huge pain.

    1. Hi Laura,

      What did you do to manage the SWD, Spotted Wing Drosophila, in NorCal?

      I have read a lot about SWD, but not encountered any myself. That doesn’t mean they aren’t around SoCal. Sadly, with the drought and tight water restrictions in L.B., my blackberries and raspberries are barely holding on. A lot of canes have died. Due to lack of water, the growth, increase, and production on the remaining canes is minuscule. Last summer i watered the berry plants once a week or less, just enough to keep them from completely dying, but since Bababerries are once again readily available, I gave up on them temporarily. I figured I will be able to reacquire them if and when the drought is lessened in the next year or two. Eventhough I don’t water the Triple crown blackberries, I got a tiny crop, but probably not enough to attrack the SWD. My thornless raspberry plants are the only berries getting supplimental water (because they are ireplaceable) but not enough to get them to spread and produce abundant crops. I have kept an eye on my grapes for signs of drosophila, but so far so good. I think the oprganza bags to protect grape clusters from birds and fruit beetles may also be protecting from the SWD fruit fly.

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  4. I found Baba Berries at Parkview Nursery in a Riverside CA! I bought 6 of them and they only have about that many left.

      1. Susan, it was the Magnolia location. Tim (guy at Parkview) said that Dave Wilson only had a few this year, but next year they are expecting to have a lot more.

  5. Happy to say that one of the two plants I got from you survived and is now thriving after the coldest winter (down to +5F) we have had here in at least 6 years. I have been eating the berries this past week and they are tart and sweet with a nice firm texture. The plant is shooting up 6-7 new canes and looks very healthy. The weird thing is the canes are completely thornless. I can not find a thorn on the plant anywhere. Definitely a winner thus far!


    Lewiston, Idaho

  6. After patiently waiting to see how much new growth would emerge after the dog destroyed a bunch of canes, I have recently propagated and potted up about 8 extra Baba berry plants. These are new primocanes from root division, and will produce first fruits in fall. Sizes vary from 4″ to a quart.

    Update at 1:32PM 3/20/2012: After speaking with Erin over the phone, it sounds like she would like to buy up most of them on Saturday afternoon. I will update if I have more after Saturday.

  7. I just talked to Tom at L.E. Cooke. He was very knowledgeable and they took them out of their catalog about 10 years ago because they couldn’t keep up with the demand. He said would love to get his hands on some (because they do so well in the heat) but he would need around 100-200 to get the ball rolling. They could have sold thousands per season but just couldn’t grow that many (at the time). They did try to reproduce them through tissue culture but it didn’t take which was disappointing. I seem to recall my grandmother being really bummed about that. He said they have a new greenhouse operation now and perhaps they could get it going again. But, he would have to get more. He might call Cedros and see where they are getting them. Who knows, Lianne, you might have spark a resurgence in the Bababerry. Wouldn’t THAT be fun? Baba would be thrilled.


  8. In regards to selling extra Baba plants this year:

    Back in the fall, I was optimistic that I would be thinning my patch by almost half this winter as I used to do before relocating the patch, and I had planned to have about a dozen nice size plants to sell. Most were already spoken for that weren’t even dug up yet.

    When we came home from winter vacation Jan. 7th, the berry patch had been partially dug up and turned into a dirt doggie bed, by George. I was very angry with that dog, but he didn’t understand, and he was probably just lonely and releasing stress when he did it. I tried to replant the damaged area as best as possible with sections from the denser part of the patch, and fenced off the area after that. The canes are beginning to break dormancy this week, and I am noticing some new growth all around the ground around throughout the berry patch. I’ll post here if it looks like I will have plenty for myself as well as enough for any more divisions. If I do have a few divisions to sell, most won’t have any floricanes, and instead be just new primocanes that won’t produce until fall. Please understand, I am not a retail nursery, just a hobby backyard gardener.


  9. I just bought 2 plants yesterday from Cedros gardens, they are very small and pricey but they look to be doing well, I plan to keep them in the pot for another month to get them well rooted and then I will transplant them to the berry patch. As of yesterday Feb 13th they had very few left. Hope this helps

  10. My maternal grandmother, Gertrude Millikan, found the Bababerry in Idllywild, CA down by a stream on her property in the late 1970s. Having grown up in Portland, OR, she noticed that they survived the snow in winter and the heat of summer without much reaction except a few curled leaves. She propagated them in her garden (in Idllywild) and sent them to friends all over the US, in OR, AZ, Palm Desert and elsewhere and really “put them to the test” asking these backyard gardeners to give her reports on their tolerance.
    She patented them in 1979 calling them Bababerries (our name for her was Baba). She was about 85 years old at the time and made her own connections with L.E. Cooke, a commercial grower in Visalia who still propagates them (you can find them listed on their website but they don’t sell to the public). You are correct, the Bababerry is not “fussy” and can survive even the most amateur gardener, which is why it is so popular and why my grandmother spent so many years trying to get it out to the backyard gardener. She lived to be 104-1/2 years old and was a great lady.

    They are not crumbly, and they are huge, this plant is great fun…you just have to tie them up or they take over your yard. Finding them is the tough part. You have to ask around at nurseries in the fall as they are best as bare roots in January. Perhaps you can get a neighborhood group together and see if your local nursery will buy a batch for everyone. They are worth it!

    Erin Thomas
    Riverside, CA

    1. Thank you for sharing, Erin! What a great story. I wondered why they were called Bababerries. I can’t wait to plant some when we get home to San Diego next year. I just think my little grandkids will love finding food to eat in our garden, down at their level.

    2. I contacted L.E. Cooke today hoping they could direct me to a nursery that carries Bababerries, but they said they no longer propagate them. Any ideas where to try next?

      1. Last I checked, Bay Laurel Nursery in San Luis Obispo County California still sells them, but they already sold out this year. They usually sell out by Oct or Nov. each year.

        1. I am so sorry to hear that!! They were the primary folks that my grandmother worked with and they were the ones who did the cloning (or stem slicing) so they could propagate more at a time. Perhaps this one will end up being something that backyard gardeners share with each other over the years. Keep the network going! That may be the only way it gets promoted. Perhaps we all need to put a flag on our calendars for Sept. to order!
          Then propagate our own and spread the word in our neighborhoods and share the wealth!
          Erin (granddaughter of the Baba of Bababerries)
          Riverside, Ca

        2. And I wonder where they get them?

          Bay Laurel Nursery
          2500 El Camino Real, Atascadero CA 93422
          tel 805 466 3406 – fax 805 466 6455

          Plant patents only last 17 years and you cannot re-apply, so no one owns the patent anymore that I know of. The number that Bay Laurel lists is my grandmother’s number.

      2. “And I wonder where they get them?”

        Erin, took some false leads from one of the sales people @BLN, but after calling wholesaler at davewilson nursery, whose voicemail directed me (saying it would be difficult to find anyone, since they again, don’t propagate easily?, and they had not been successful in doing so), being told to try raintree.

      3. flate rate shipping costs becomes quite expensive! I talked to a nurseryman, Bob, and he told me he was sold out for the season (this in early Jan), had no idea who else to try, that he had gotten many calls from people like me that wanted just a few. While he does sell retail, he had already sold quantity at wholesale level…even though not listed on his website> I didn’t try Raintree, they didn’t have it listed on their website.
        I had already contacted a close acquaintance who is the premier fruit investigator of the world who writes the LATimes farmers mkt report, even he didn’t know of a source :(. My 87yr old mother had been growing the Baba for (prob got @Armstrong yrs ago) 2+decades, has 2 very weak examples in my care 4 her now, just barely alive now in 5gal pots-suffering from virus :(>>can’t beat the combo sig tart-sweet flavor of a Baba *home* grown/ripened to perfection>beats *all* farmers mkts ex by far!

        1. Gordon et al: it’s not that they are difficult to propagate per se, but a challenge to propagate “quickly” in order to get enough to fulfill demand. That’s why L.E. Cooke took them out of their catalog because it was causing havoc with their ordering process (too many back orders). Tom at L.E. Cooke seemed to imply that if they could get 100 or so, they may be able to grow more in their new greenhouse operation and get them going again. Let’s hope.

          Good things come to those who wait? We will sell no Bababerries before their time?

      4. I should note, LECooke person I spoke to in Dec., told me that not only were they having problems propagating the Baba, they were, according to him; trying to locate a *donor* source for the berries…. Leanne?

        It is strange that there are so few sources, given that the patent recently expired for the Baba, you’d think we could get them from more places- just like the recently expired Mara de bois strawberry patent expiration, my friend wrote about in the LATimes last summer.—of course Pudwill farms doesn’t do such a good job with bringing premium quality ripened berries to the local farmers mkts.

      5. Gordon: I am really surprised to hear that. My grandmother was the one (Baba) who patented that plant in 1983 and negotiated (on her own) a propagation contract with L.E. Cooke. They propagated a bunch of them over many years and were even doing a new technique where they slice the canes (I think) and grow plants from those. That way they could increase their volume tenfold (or more). I wonder what happened. I may even call them myself and ask.


  11. I bought two Baba Berry plants from Cedros garden in Solana Beach. I live in the inland San Diego area where the temps average 90-100 during the peak of summer. The two plants that I picked up were very tiny and still in the delicate stage. Should I hold off until fall to plant them? Or do you think they can take the morning sun till around 12:00PM? Do you fertilize your plants? Just curious as I don’t want to drive another 80 miles round trip to buy new ones. Thanks in advance. Dan in East San Diego County.

    1. If it was me, I would probably plant them, partially out of worry they might dry out if left in pots. Give them some light shade protection the first few weeks until they establish a good root system and water regularly. After that they should be okay with morning sun. For temporary shade, I use old screens that were designed for reducing sunlight through windows. I lean it up against the wall adjacent to my berry patch. I have also used them over the top of lettuce beds, propped up on cinder blocks. I add homemade compost twice a year as a mulch on my berry plants, so I guess it is light fertilizing.

  12. I live in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona and I bought a Bababerry plant three years ago and planted it next to the north side of my house, so it gets only morning sun. It is growing more and producing more berries each year.

    1. Where did you buy your plant from? I live in Tucson and haven’t been able to find Bababerry plants anywhere locally. I’d love to know if they’re available at a nursery in Phoenix so I can see about picking some up next time I’m up there.

      1. I am in California. Most of the fruit varieties I have tried have come from other collectors through California Rare Fruit Growers. However, my neighbor got her Bababerries from HomeDepot after she saw how well the thrived in my garden, but that was probably in 2003 or 2004. Around here, few nurseries carry bababerry anymore. Try mail order next year from Bay Laurel Nursery. Just make sure to order by Oct. or Nov. They sell out many months in advance of bareroot season. The main propagator is L.E. Cooke in Visalia, but they are a wholesale berry and fruit tree supplier. Maybe ask them if there are any nurseries they supply in the phoenix area and see if you could special order.

        Best of Luck.

  13. I saw your informative e-mail about the baba bushes. I just got some to start this year and now my son brought some black berry or black raspberry bushes home. I was wondering if I could plant those close to the baba bushes or will they cross-pollenate? I would love hearing from you as this is a new experience for me.

    1. They could cross pollinate, but it should not affect the flavor of the berries of either plant. The only time it would matter is if you start new plants from fallen fruit or seeds. My new plants come from tip layering of the blackberries and root division of the raspberries. Just weed out the volunteers that start from seeds, and you should be fine planting them close together.

  14. I bought baba berry plants from Willis Orchards year before last and nothing sprouted in spring. …I got replacements last fall, and they appear to be totally dead again this year. …All the other berries have sprouted and the baba’s have done nothing. …..I took great care with them and built a special bed with special composted soil, special support, a watering system and plenty of mulch. …What is wrong?

    1. The only thing I can think of from your description is the planting time. Around me, it is easiest and cheapest to plant berries is while they are dormant at the end of winter. Other than that, it was probably nothing you did, or could have done. Babas are NOT very fussy and are probably the easy raspberry I have grown. It was probably Willis Orchard’s inferior plants.

      I have tried other raspberry varieties, and it seems many need different conditions than we have here in Southern California. Some of the plants live for a few years, but after a few seasons, they decline and eventually die off. Bababerry has been the only one that has really thrived and loved our climate. Besides Bababerry, I am sure there are other good choices for warm climates if you look hard enough.

      I have had a few similar experiences with shipped plants years ago, and I know how frustrating it can be. If you are in SoCal, send me an email (see the front page of my blog) with a contact phone number, and I will help you out with a division of one of mine since you had such rotten luck.
      If you have your heart set on Babas and aren’t local, try Bay Laurel Nursery in September and pre-order for bare root season 2012. They sell out early.

  15. Hi there,

    I saw your petty bababerry from I live at riverside, and have been looking for this bababerry in nursery all over the socal and found none. I can’t believe this variety was originated from LA!

    Do you happen to know which nursery sell this bababerry? I’d be more than happy to buy a couple from you.


    1. I saw these berries at Cedros Gardens in Solana Beach, CA. I am heading there this afternoon to pick some up. The owner, Mia, told me these berries are not grown commercially that is probably why you can’t find them in the chain garden stores. If you haven’t been to Cedros Gardens, you should go and make a day of checking out the shops there and in Del Mar and Encinitas. Worth the trip.

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