What Is a Marionberry?

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By Danica Lo Posted October 05, 2016

If you want to try one, better book a flight to Oregon.

One of the most in-demand berries of the season is one you probably can't get in your hometown. Meet the marionberry—a large, round, blackberry that's a cross between the chehalem and olallieberry breeds. It's known as the "Cabernet of blackberries," and fans of the fruit are obsessed with its earthy, complex, sweet-yet-tart flavor. And unless you're in Oregon, chances are you'll never come across it in your local supermarket. That's because "Marion is too soft to ship anywhere fresh," Oregon State University's Chad Finn told NPR. "I'm sure most of the fresh fruit is consumed locally, and I'm sure because of it, there's a local love for it."

Bred by OSU in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture breeding prorgram, the marionberry is the most common blackberry in the state—and more than half Oregon's blackberry crop are marionberries. In fact, despite the fact that Oregon produces between 28 and 33 million pounds of marionberries annually, most of the harvest never make it across state lines—even frozen.

"If you go to Provo, Utah, you probably won't find frozen marionberries, but you will if you go to any grocery store, even Safeway, here in Oregon," regional historian Richard Engeman told the media outlet.

"They are Oregon's fruit," Nancy Hendricks, an expert at Fresh to You Produce & Garden Center, said in a 2007 video. "They were developed here at Oregon State University, named after Marion County, and they're pretty much just grown in Oregon. They're our special fruit."

She explains that they're even easy to grow at home in a backyard garden, as long as you know what to expect: "The way marionberries work, is that the first year they grow the cane, the second year, they produce the fruit."

If you're looking to catch a taste of marionberries, but don't live anywhere near Oregon, don't worry! Take a tip from our Thanksgiving pie guide and order a Marionberry Crunch or a Marionberry Dream pie from the Willamette Valley Pie Company, who also have 2 lb. bags of frozen marionberries for sale online.

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