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Marionberries are a medium to large caneberry varietal with a conical to elongated oblong shape. The berries are comprised of clusters of individual drupelets, or single seed-filled sacks, that surround a solid core. The fruit’s surface is textured, bumpy, delicate, and smooth with a glossy, taut appearance. The skin also varies, showcasing dark purple, almost black hues mixed with dark red and aubergine nuances. Underneath the surface, Marionberries have a slightly firmer texture than common blackberries and showcase a fleshy, aqueous, and succulent consistency. The flesh is also dark purple and contains tiny, flat, and thin seeds coated in a gelatinous layer, allowing most of the seeds to be undetectable. Marionberries are aromatic and have balanced sugar and acidity levels, creating a complexly sweet, subtly tart, fruity, and earthy taste.
Marionberries are available in the summer through early fall, with a peak season in July.
Marionberries, botanically a part of the Rubus genus, are a hybrid blackberry variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The fruits grow on thorny plants that produce long shoots called canes that can reach 4 to 6 meters in length and are a specialty variety native to Oregon. Marionberries were developed from the need to produce a blackberry variety that had improved flavor, size, and exhibited less invasive growth characteristics. The cultivar was created in Oregon in the mid to late 20th century and quickly became one of the most grown blackberries in the state, accounting for over half of the total Blackberry crop produced in the present day. Marionberries are sometimes referred to as Marion Blackberries, written as Marion Berries, or nicknamed the “Cabernet of Blackberries” for their complex flavoring. It is important to note that Marionberries are distinct from the common blackberry. Marionberries are typically more oblong in shape, sweeter in flavor, and are localized to Oregon, while common blackberries are cultivated worldwide. Berry enthusiasts favor Marionberries for their rich flavoring, pigmented juice, and tender consistency. Each year, the fruits are in season for a few weeks, sold fresh through local growers in Oregon and occasionally in other West coast areas, and are highly perishable, lasting only for a few days once harvested. It has also been reported that most of the Marionberries harvested are given to commercial processing centers, where the fruits are used in juices, jams, desserts, and purees, frozen and shipped throughout North America.
Marionberries are a source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, vitamin A to maintain healthy organ function, and antioxidants to protect the cells against free radical damage while reducing inflammation. The fruits also provide fiber to regulate the digestive tract and calcium to build strong bones and teeth.
Marionberries have a balanced sweet, tart, and subtly earthy flavor suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The fruits are popularly consumed straight out of hand and are valued as seasonal summer fruit. Marionberries can be used in any recipe calling for standard blackberries and have a slightly sweeter flavor, requiring less sugar. The fruits can be tossed into green salads, layered into parfaits, served on cheese boards, or mixed into fruit salads. Marionberries can also be blended into shakes and smoothies or made into ice cream, sorbet, or gelato. In the Pacific Northwest, Marionberries are used as a specialty ingredient in beers and liquors. Marionberries can also be cooked into jams and jellies or simmered into syrups, drizzled over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, and other desserts. Try using Marionberries as a pie, cobbler, or tart filling. The fruits can also be baked into scones, muffins, and cakes or incorporated into other sweet desserts. In addition to sweet preparations, Marionberries have a savory quality that complements roasted meats. The fruits can be reduced into a sauce with red wine and spices and drizzled over duck, pork, or venison, or they can be used to flavor dips and spreads for burgers, sandwiches, or tacos. Marionberries pair well with fruits such as strawberries, citrus, stone fruits, and coconut, honey, rose, chocolate, spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, raisins, wine, sherry, and rum. Whole, unwashed Marionberries are highly perishable and will only keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. The fruits are also frozen for extended use.
Marionberries were named after Marion County, a region in the Willamette Valley where the fruits were extensively trialed and evaluated before their commercial release. The Willamette Valley is unofficially nicknamed the “Caneberry Capital of the World” and is home to many different caneberries, including raspberries, Marionberries, blackberries, and boysenberries. Marionberries are one of the more unique berries harvested from the valley, thriving in the region’s cool, mild, and sunny climate. Despite their limited availability and delicate nature, Marionberries were officially designated as the state pie of Oregon in 2017. The sweet-tart pies are a staple dessert among Oregon locals, and Sheri Malstrom spearheaded the state pie movement. Malstrom is the owner of the popular chain Shari’s Café and Pies, featuring over 95 locations throughout Oregon, California, Washington, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nebraska. Malstrom’s Marionberry pie has won over 10 Gold Medals at the National Pie Championships, annually held in Orlando, Florida, and run by the American Pie Council, a community of professionals and pie enthusiasts in the pie industry.
Marionberries were developed in 1945 through a partnership between the USDA Agricultural Research Service Breeding Program and the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. USDA horticulturalist George F. Waldo created the variety through crossbreeding Chehalem berries, a hybrid with a blackberry, loganberry, and raspberry parentage, and Olallieberries. The first plants selected from this cross were labeled OSC 928 in 1948 and were sent to Marion County and other regions of the Willamette Valley for extensive trialing and testing. OSC 928 was later renamed Marionberries in 1956 and was released to commercial growers throughout Oregon. Today Marionberries are still primarily grown in Marion County of the Willamette Valley. Around 28 to 33 million pounds of Marionberries are annually produced in Oregon, and the fresh berries are sold direct from farms, at local markets, roadside stands, and specialty grocers. It is rare to find Marionberries outside of the Pacific Northwest, but the fruits can sometimes be seen at select farmer’s markets in California.
Recipes that include Marionberries. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Cascadia Kitchen||Marionberry-Rhubarb Jam|
|The New Potato||Goat Cheese Marionebrry Habanero Ice Cream|