Thursday, May 27, 2010

Boysenberries in Southern California

David Karp writes about boysenberries in today's LA Times, providing probably the best background I've come across on this berry so far. I hadn't realized how precious they are since they are rare to find and not widely cultivated. I also didn't know they are distinctly California bred plants.
The exact parentage of boysenberry is obscure, but scientists surmise, based on analyses of genes, plants and fruits, that it resulted from a cross of Logan with an Eastern dewberry. It may in fact have been one of the famous plant breeder Luther Burbank's seedlings, which somehow made its way to John Lubben's home in Alameda, Calif., and thence to his Napa County farm, where it was called lubbenberry.In the early 1920s, Rudolph Boysen, who was farming Lubben's property, was crossing blackberries and raspberries, and when he moved to Anaheim in 1923, he took with him some plants growing large, exquisitely flavored berries, which he claimed to have bred.

My berries are peaking in my garden, already!, and I've been harvesting about a pint a day. It's a small but rambling plant, my thornless boysenberries. The cross between the raspberry and blackberry gives them that sweet tart oxymoronic taste. The berries don't last very long off the vine;it's not just that they are tasty but that they are delicate with thin easily ruptured skins. I can understand why they aren't grocery market material; even at a farmer's market, I know mine wouldn't hold up well. Anyways, today I collected two pints, enough to make a boysenberry pie.
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