Marionberries are a berry cultivar developed in Oregon. They are named for Marion County, a region where the berries were extensively tested during their early years. They continue to be widely grown in this region of Oregon. Marionberries are exported throughout the world during their growing season, and there are a number of marionberry products produced in Oregon, ranging from jam to barbecue sauce.
These berries are the result of a cross between Chehalem and Ollalieberry cultivars. These two cultivars are also hybrids, blending features of blackberries and raspberries. Marionberries have a very full, sweet flavor which some people describe as "summery," with a hint of tartness at the finish. They are a bit more sturdy than blackberries, making them more suitable for commercial production and marketing because they are less subject to rot and bruising.
Marionberries are cane berries, growing on long canes with a trailing growth habit. These berries have been bred to produce in high volume, another feature that makes them ripe for commercial sale. They're at their peak of ripeness in July and are longer than they are wide, with a rich ruby-red to almost black color. Although tougher than blackberries, marionberries are delicate and very juicy. That delicateness means they have to be harvested by hand, not machine, which contributes to their somewhat higher cost.
This berry cultivar was formally introduced to the world in 1956 by George F. Waldo. It is one among a broad assortment of berries introduced at around this period in Oregon and along the West Coast of the United States. Marionberries are designed to thrive in the cool, damp environment of Oregon, and they can also be grown in parts of Northern California and Southern Washington. Some garden stores carry marionberry canes for cultivation, and they can also be ordered through companies which specialize in cane berries.
There are many ways to use marionberries. They can be used just like blackberries in jams, cobblers, pies, and fruit salads. They can also be eaten out of hand, blended into berry sauces for savory and sweet foods, baked into breads and other sweet treats, and pureed in smoothies and berry drinks. Marionberries freeze very well, for cooks who like to have a stock on hand, and they can also be pureed for easier freezing, if cooks intend to use the berries in pureed sauces or smoothies.