We must say, we here at FruitStand are pretty big fans of Mother Nature’s handiwork, loving all the natural treats she’s cooked up for us and hung on all those trees, shrubs and bushes.
Still, even we have to sometimes admit some fruits are just too good to be true. And while mankind will always play second fiddle to Mother Nature, sometimes we mere mortals just hit a note too sweet to not be shared.
An example of such a finely-designed manmade snack? None other than the boysenberry!
The fruit is a lovely example of what can be achieved through the art of Natural Selection: the science of mixing and matching certain pairs of fruits for breeding in pursuit of a plant truly greater than the sum of its parts.
When it comes to boysenberries, those parts contain some of the tastiest berries around, including the European raspberry, European blackberry, American dewberry and the loganberry.
(We must stress, though, that there’s nothing unnatural about boysenberries aside from their origin. There’s actually a big difference between fruits that come from Natural Selection and those that arrive via GMO procedures – but naturally selected fruits actually make up most of the cultivars currently on the market.)
The tasty combination was first concocted by a farmer named Rudolph Boysen, some time in the 1920s. Still, none of us would have likely ever tasted the juicy fruit if it wasn’t for a different pair of farmers: George Darrow and Walter Knott. (You may know the latter better for his role in opening one of the best amusement parks on the West Coast.)
The twosome had heard about a delicious, deep purple berry being grown around Anaheim, California, but when they finally tracked down the source and arrived at Boysen’s farm, they discovered the grower had given up on his berry experiment years ago.
Still, intrigued by the tasty and tantalizing stories they’d heard, they asked Boysen for the formula – and were instantly smitten with the fruits of their labor.
To this day, the berries are still most widely grown in California, though their bushes have put down roots all along the West Coast and have even jumped both ponds, landing in both Europe and New Zealand.
And since the boysenberry itself is the result of some gentle natural tinkering, there aren’t too many different types of boysenberries – though, some have seen fit to improve on the original recipe over the years.
One of the main sticking points of boysenberries is quite a literal one: The fruit’s runners are typically studded with thorns, which makes dangerous – or, at least, painful – work out of picking the fruit.
So one of the first major innovations in the field was coming up with a thornless type of boysenberry. And today, the fruit is typically first classified as either “thorny” or “thornless.”
Thorny varieties are said to be hardier and more tolerant to cold, though they often grow in the same areas as thornless cultivars. They’re also the “original” version of the berry, wearing the same type of spikes as their raspberry, blackberry and loganberry parents.
Thornless varietals, on the other hand, are far more popular for selling and shipping to grocery stores and farmer’s markets. To be fair, though, even these plants are riddled with some pretty stiff hairs – and even the occasional thorn – that could really dig in if you’re not aware, so proceed with caution!
Other than that, there are a few different types of boysenberries that have broken away enough from the original design to gain their own cultivar names, including:
Technically another hybrid berry. (For those who want to play berry Inception, this would be a mix of marion, logan, and boysenberries – which are, of course, a mix of raspberry, blackberry and loanberry.)
Newberries are typically a bit bigger and sweeter than their boysenberry parents, and the fruits are known to be a little better for shipping, as well, with less likelihood of leaking juice in transit.
They’re also a beautiful shade of red, unlike their deep purple forbearer, giving them the nickname of the Ruby Boysen.
These fruits come straight from the Land of Oz – Australia, that is.
The boysenberry hybrid also adds in some blackberry and marionberry into the mix, resulting in a fruit that’s softer than a marionberry, and faster to sprout than a boysenberry, though likely to be slightly less flavorful or aromatic.
Still, the fruit has proven popular, even outside of Australia, becoming one of the top-grown types of boysenberries in Oregon.
Today, you’re most likely to see them, or their other boysenberry cousins, as a jam, jelly or pie filling – all thanks up to one of the most delicious experiments ever conducted.