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What Is a Boysenberry?

Boysenberries, center, are similar in appearance to blackberries, left.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 June 2014
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A boysenberry is a type of glossy, large, juicy berry that is related to the North American blackberry. In addition to being eaten fresh during their brief growing season, they also can be incorporated into jams, preserves and syrups. Their flavor is somewhat reminiscent of raspberries with a more tart undertone, especially when the berries are not fully ripened. They are available from grocery stores and farmers' markets, but they are not very stable off the vine, so it is important to eat them within two or three days of purchase.

California Origins

The inventor of the boysenberry is believed to Rudolph Boysen, who experimented with various berry crosses in Napa, California, during the 1920s. In 1923, his cross of a blackberry, loganberry, and raspberry successfully grew and bore fruit. The combination was acquired by Walter Knott, a Southern California berry farmer, who started selling the fruit commercially in 1935. Boysenberries and their preserves helped make Knott's business quite famous.

Tart Flavor

The distinctly tart flavor of fresh boysenberries makes them very popular in areas where they can be obtained. When selecting ones to take home, shoppers should look for evenly sized and evenly colored specimens that have no areas of mushiness. The berries should be kept under refrigeration in a watertight container far from apples and bananas, which emit ethylene gas.

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If the berries are not going to be used within three days of purchase, a person should consider using them to make jam. They can be scattered fresh on pancakes and waffles, used as a pie filling, or added as a decorative accent to cheesecakes and tarts. The berries also can be eaten plain or as part of a fruit salad.

Growing Boysenberries

To grow boysenberries at home, gardeners should find a patch of land that receives full sun and minimal wind. The soil should be tilled thoroughly, working in plenty of compost and mulch. Vines should be planted about 3 feet (0.9 m) apart in the late spring colder climates or the late fall in warmer climates.

Trellises should be installed for the trailing vines to grow on so that they will be pulled up off the ground, making the berries easier to harvest and less likely to rot. Typically, boysenberry vines will bear fruit in the spring, after which they should be cut down close to the ground to encourage fresh shoots, which will bear berries again the next year. The plants should be watered thoroughly after they are cut back, and the vines should be retrained as they grow.

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Discuss this Article

anon327896
Post 10

I had a close friend who grew up in Orange County who knew the Knotts and Boysens. He told me that Boysen created that berry and gave it as a gift to Knott. Boysen was never compensated, but Knott did well financially with that berry.

anon60768
Post 9

how do boysenberries compare with marionberries?

anon43899
Post 8

I'm in Escondido, CA. An additional comment for growing boysenberries in our hot, dry summer climate is that I've had great success watering with soaker hoses. They seem to thrive better with this method than others I have tried. Also, in addition to eating fresh and making jelly, I also freeze some. Like blueberries (and maybe most berries) they don't get very hard when frozen. You can eat them that way or thaw them a little. It's nice to pull a few out of the freezer in January.

anon41735
Post 7

Southern Ontario Chef looking for local Boysenberries. Can anyone help?

scs
Post 6

There is a local historical marker (sign) mentioning the Boysen farm in Anaheim (small blue sign). I think the marker is on Ball Road. I used to pass it on the way from work (Boeing - Anaheim) on the way to Disneyland via surface streets.

lipstrom
Post 5

It probably doesn't matter where the boysenberry was created, but I read in an old 1953 issue of Desert magazine that Knott found the original vine in San Luis Obispo County, California. While magazines certainly make mistakes, the article was written to promote Walter Knott's current business venture, so I believe they actually asked him.

Patch123
Post 4

I want to grow Boysenberries in Southern Ohio... is that possible? And any ideas on nurseries that carry them? Thank you!

anon9941
Post 2

Boysen's farm was in Orange County, California, several hundred miles south of Napa (where your article placed the farm). The exact location is lost to history, but believed to have been in Anaheim.

Moderator's reply: thanks reader for pointing that out! i did some research of my own, and was unable to establish a consensus on the exact location of the Boysen's farm. some sources cited Napa, while others vaguely cited the Anaheim area. This confusion may further be exacerbated by the fact that he served as the city of Anaheim's chief horticulturist and parks superintendent. additionally, Walter Knott of Knott's Berry Farm fame (in Buena Park, CA, close to Anaheim, CA) saved Boysen's languishing berry vines, which were then named for him.

somerset
Post 1

I have read someplace that boysenberries help with memory. Some preliminary studies have been done, and they suggested that boysenberries, along with some other berries contain substances that help fight aging and Alzheimer's. Even though more research needs to be conducted, it does not hurt to add boysenberries and as many other berries as possible to the daily menu. They are a great companion to oatmeal, yogurt, or in fruit salads, and with a sprinkling of nuts make it a healthy, satisfying treat.

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