When I heard there was a berry that is only available for a few weeks a year, and only grows in Oregon’s Wilamette Valley, clearly I was not leaving Portland without trying this ultra-exclusive little fruit.
For those who may be confused, marionberry, when listed on menus, does not refer to the former mayor of Washington, D.C. Rather, as Molly Watson explains:
The marionberry was developed at Oregon State University in 1945 by crossing a Chehalem blackberry (a berry with native blackberry, Loganberry, and raspberry in its background) with a Olallieberry (itself a blackberry cross) and named after Marion county in Oregon. They were first brought to market in 1956. Marionberries are still held up as the blackberry to beat by berry breeders.
Oh, I see. So you cheated to create this perfect little fruit. I’m on to you, Oregon. Anyway, when I was in Portland in June, I was dying to get my hands on a bushel of marionberries, but was disappointed to hear that apparently the season doesn’t really get going until July or August.
Finally, at the very old-school Tulip Pastry Shop in the far-flung St. John’s neighborhood, I spied a marionberry fritter—a crispy, golden-fried nugget of donut with huge splashes of berry throughout. They have that tartness that makes blackberries so great, but they’re sweeter, juicier and larger than your typical little blackberry, so they work for baking. From my extremely limited tasting, I’d also say they’re delicious.
While this was the only marionberry I found on my journey, come this time of year I hear Portlanders put them in everything from cocktails to ice cream. Marionberry poptail, anyone?