Spotlight on: Oregon’s Own Marionberry

Another Fabulous Berry From Oregon

Closeup of a Marionberry, from Oregon

Lots and lots of seasonal dishes and beverages involving the Marionberry, in all its glory and splendor, begin to appear when you live and dine in Oregon. Tangy marionberry-based milkshakes, pies, cocktails and more begin to speckle the specials lists at restaurants and local eateries, and crafty cocktail mixers spice up the sweet summer drinks with them, too. So what are they? And why are they produced specifically in Oregon, anyway?

If you didn’t know it already, the marionberry is a berry whose origins are to be found in the state of Oregon, where we write this blog from. But why is that? Just a cursory bit of research and a trip to Wikipedia leads us to the following bit of info:

“The ‘Marion’ cultivar (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus) or Marion blackberry, marketed as ‘marionberry,’ is a hybrid caneberry developed by the USDA ARS breeding program in cooperation with Oregon State University. It is a cross between the ‘Chehalem’ and ‘Olallie’ berries. The marionberry is currently the most common blackberry cultivar, accounting for over half of all blackberries produced in Oregon.” (link below to full entry)

More on Oregon’s Own Marionberry

Given the structure of the plant, it seems that the marionberry is quite ideal for berry growers. It produces strong vines, fruits abundantly, and grows well in the Oregon climate. According to Salem’s online history, where they take extra great pride in the berry:

The Marionberry is a bright, glossy blackberry with medium to large fruit, somewhat longer than wide.  It is special to the area because it is named after the county in which it was developed, and 90% of the world’s Marionberries are grown near Salem.

There are only a handful of areas in the world where caneberries thrive and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, known as the Caneberry Capitol of the World, offers the most favorable of all climates.

Described un-officially as “the queen of blackberries,” the marionberry is known for its rich, earthy and complex flavor that is not unlike the dark fruity overtones of a cabernet wine. And while many blackberries are known for being slightly tart and bitter, the marionberry crawls right up next to that, but manages to stay more sweet than bitter, making it a true favorite among berry lovers, and something that is anxiously awaited every July and August.

baskets of marionberries, from Oregon

The history of the marionberry, in a nutshell, looks like this: “Introduced by George F. Waldo in 1956 and adapted to Western Oregon, the Marionberry is named after Marion County, where it was tested extensively. The berry is medium to large, round and somewhat longer than wide,” according to a website dedicated solely to information on Oregon’s berries.

Do you have a particular fondness for the berry? What about a great recipe, or an insider tip on what restaurants or bars are serving up the best marionberry-based concoctions? Leave us a comment in the section below, and share the marionberry love!

Other Online Resources for Learning About Marionberries

Salem, Oregon online History: Learn about how marionberries are connected to Salem’s past.

What is a marionberry? from About.com, unpacking a tiny bit of Oregon’s state pride.

Did you know there was an entire website dedicated to teaching people about Oregon berries? Learn more about this native berry, one of Oregon’s faves.

Love Wikipedia? Here’s the marionberry page over there, for ya.

[Photos Via: transpacificfood.com; sunfreshjam.com]

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