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.
The Valley's moist spring rains, and summers that are warm
in the daytime and cool at night, provide just the right conditions
to produce berries that are sweet and plump. The berry's
taste is distinctively sweet, yet has a mildly tart and lasting
flavor. It has a serious following among berry aficionados,
and is one of the most popular souvenirs purchased by visitors
to the Willamette Valley. Gifts of Marionberry jams
and syrups have been offered to lure potential football players
to the University of Oregon.
Marionberries ripen through spring and early summer, reaching
their peak during July. They are usually hand-picked
early in the day. Nearly 900 Oregon growers work with
about 20 Oregon processors to ensure that the delicate berries
are packed fresh within hours of harvest. Oregon's 1995
Marionberry crop was more than 12,300 tons. Health-minded
consumers find them a nutritional bargain. Just
65-80 calories per cup, they are high in vitamins and fiber,
yet low in sodium and fat.
Summer's fresh flavor is locked in this hybrid blackberry
developed by Oregon State University's Agricultural Research
and Development Program in Corvallis, Oregon. It is
a blackberry cross between two previous Oregon hybrids, the
smaller, but tasty Chehalem and the larger, higher-producing
Ollalie. George F. Waldo of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
began its development in 1945, and it was tested at
Willamette Valley farms. The new variety was released under
its name of Marionberry in 1956.
The Marionberry is a trailing vigorous grower, generally
producing only a few long canes which grow up to 20 feet.
The Marionberry can produce up to six tons of fruit per acre.
The quality of the Marionberry is high, with flavor superior
to the Boysenberry or Evergreen blackberries. Marionberries
are well-suited for use in local fresh markets, and are used
for commercial and home canning and freezing as well as pies,
ice cream flavoring, jams, and jellies. Marionberry jams,
syrups, preserves, and other products are shipped to Africa,
Europe, Japan, Australia, and Thailand. Just about anywhere
a commercial airliner has gone, Marionberry products have
gone there, too.
Native Americans all over North America have gathered blackberries.
Early American settlers held blackberries in highest esteem,
enjoying them fresh with cream or wine, in syrups, jams, pies,
cobblers, grunts, slumps, pandowdies, wine cordials, teas,
fruit waters, and flummeries.
Only one type of trailing blackberry is native to the West
Coast, Rubus ursinus. It has a slender trailing stem
armed with flattened prickles and is found abundantly on prairies,
burns, clearings, and dense woodlands from the Coast to the
mid-mountains, from British Columbia to Northern California
to Eastern Idaho.
The Evergreen blackberry, Rubus lacianatus is native
of England, where it is known as the cut-leaf blackberry.
It appeared in Oregon around 1850, brought to the West Coast
by explorers from England and then spread by birds.
The Himalaya blackberry was introduced by Luther Burbank
at the turn of the 1900s, named for his belief that it came
from the Himalaya mountains of Asia. In fact,
it was actually Rubus procerus of Germany.
This is the common blackberry in the Pacific Northwest, known
well as a weed, as well as a source of berries for pies and
jams, but not commercially grown.
In 1926, Philip Steffes of Sublimity, Oregon found a thornless
plant growing east of Stayton, which was identical to the
thornless Evergreen blackberry. When it was tested and found
to be as productive as the thorny form, it quickly gained
popularity as the main blackberry sold in the United States
and grown extensively in Oregon.
Salem is not only home to the world-renowned Marionberry,
but also the Zielinski blackberry. A wild variety of blackberry
found near Salem by B. Zielinski, and named the Zielinski,
was a successful cross with the Loganberry and found to have
characteristics similar to the wild blackberry. Two of these
were named Pacific and Cascade, and are grown in home gardens
for their native blackberry flavor and used for home processing.
Both are vigorous, ripen early, and produce up to four tons
per acre. The berries, however, are too soft for commercial
Learn more about the Marionberry, find recipes, and learn
about more Oregon berries at the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry
Association's website: http://www.oregon-berries.com/
Researched and written by Monica Mersinger
Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry
Association, publications, 1999
Oregon State University crop reports,