They’re often paired with raspberries and blueberries to make the ultimate berry mashup – and while we all appreciate a good tri-colored medley, blackberries stand just as well on their own, thank you very much!
Which is why we’re extra thankful there are so many types of blackberries to love.
Not Quite A Berry
Although, we may have technically misspoken: Blackberries aren’t actually berries at all.
Strictly speaking, each little bulb on the berry is its own special stone fruit, also called a “drupe,” the same botanical designation as a peach or a cherry. The blackberry, then, scientifically, can be referred as a “drupelet” – which, if we’re being honest, has a much cooler ring to it.
Adding insult to injury, these non-berries can also, technically, be considered weeds, since the way their roots and shoots grow make them, from an ecological point of view, an invasive species!
But for our money, they’re the tastiest weed out there – and it seems like humans would historically agree, with traces of blackberries showing up in our diets for thousands of years.
And the plant wasn’t just used for eating. Historically, blackberries have been made into everything from fabric dye to wine and tea to medicine for bleeding gums, canker sores, stomach ulcers and even dysentery. Whew!
Plus, since this wonder fruit grows so easily au natural (One advantage of being an invasive species!), humans have barely had to mess with the formula to ensure future blackberry yields.
That means most of the blackberries we enjoy today are straight from Mother Nature’s original cookbook – and since the ultimate engineer really knows what she’s doing, each type of blackberry has its own delectable qualities, including:
Native nearly everywhere the fruit can grow (that is, places with particularly temperate weather), this type of blackberry bush is noted for its especially long canes – or stems – which can measure up to 20 feet long.
Finicky weather preferences and larger-than-life sizes aside, trailing blackberries are one of the most popular types of blackberries, thanks largely to their smaller seeds, extra juiciness, and particularly tart and sweet aroma and taste.
Named after their preferred shape, these types of blackberries sprout out of canes that grow straight and tall.
Erect blackberry bushes are particularly prone to the “weed” designation, as the plant tends to grow from both its roots and its crown (the top of the plant), giving it double the chance to hog all the air in the room.
As for the berries themselves, they’re typically not as tasty or large as their Trailing brethren, but they tend to be sturdier and stronger against the cold.
The Goldilocks compromise between Trailing and Erect blackberries, these bushes and berries combine traits from both.
Fortunately, that means growing berries that can be easily picked from their mostly thorn-free canes, and the plants are also known for big berry yields. But the types of blackberries grown from these plants unfortunately take more after the Erect side of the family, with a taste and smell not as nearly as good as its Trailing cousins.
This type of blackberry bush is named after a neat trick of nature.
While most blackberry bushes need two years to start sprouting fruits, primocanes can grow the delicious drupelets from their first round of sprouting stems, technically called primocanes.
The designation means the bush is a favorite among gardeners – especially those in colder weather areas – and primocanes tend to produce tastier types of blackberries to boot!
And while there aren’t too many specific blackberry cultivars that come from these primary plants, the fruit has gone on to have plenty of offspring, mixing with a number of other berries to produce some truly delicious results, including:
Named for the farmer who first grew them, these types of blackberries (sort of) are actually more reddish-purple, with a sweeter taste than the average blackberry.
They were first introduced to the world in the 1920s, though, for whatever reason, Boysen soon gave up on his creation. The recipe was only saved years later by another thrifty farmer named Knotts – the same man who later lent his name to the famous Berry Farm amusement park!
This type of blackberry hybrid actually represents a three-way cross between two different types of the drupelet and one type of raspberry.
The result was the berry named, once again, after its creator, which presents as a large, dark red fruit with a particularly tart taste that’s typically reserved for making pies, juices and wines.
A cross between two different types of blackberries, this hybrid was actually first developed by Oregon State University.
But things worked out so well for the marionberry, that the fruit accounts for more than half of the blackberries grown in the Beaver State today. That might be thanks to its complex flavor pallet, which mixes juicy sweetness with tartness and just a touch of earthiness.
Another Oregon State creation, these types of blackberries combine the DNA from two other rare types of blackberries: the Logan Berry and the Youngberry, itself a hybrid of blackberry, raspberry and dewberry.
While the fruit hasn’t gained nearly as much popularity as its Marion sibling, its name does have an interesting background. In the regional Native American dialect of Chinook, “Olalli” actually means “berry,” making this creation officially the berry-berry.
For a technical non-berry, that’s a pretty good coup! Blackberries, we tip our hat to you.