Saturday, February 13, 2010


imageI went to a local nursery today to get some answers on citrus questions.  A couple of times each year some nurseries host citrus tastings so you can taste the fruit before buying the trees.  I had my questions answered by the representative from the citrus grower and was satisfied that my citrus is on the right track.  Now it was time to browse.
I like puttering up and down the rows of plants thinking of how I could use a particular type or how I could grown something from seed.  Many of my produce questions were answered during this stroll.  I found a thornless boysenberry I want to try.  I don’t know much about these; but Farmer MacGregor likes them so I’ll give it a shot.  Now it was time to get the seeds I needed.
The seeds selection was less than exciting.  I want to try some new varieties this summer.  The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog is dog eared and loaded with sticky notes on my kitchen table.  It’s time to order.
This evening I did a little research about the thornless boysenberry (Rubus ursinus) grown by L.E. Cooke Co. out of Visalia, CA.  I may be wrong, but I think the Latin name offered is in reference to the blackberry stock involved.  Boysenberries are a combination of blackberries, raspberries, and loganberries.
Even more interesting is the history of the boysenberry:
In the late 1920s, George M. Darrow of the USDA began tracking down reports of a large, reddish-purple berry that had been grown on the northern California farm of a man named Rudolph Boysen.  Darrow enlisted the help of Walter Knott, a Southern California farmer who was known as a berry expert. Knott hadn't heard of the new berry, but he agreed to help Darrow in his search for the berry.
Darrow and Knott learned that Boysen had abandoned his growing experiments several years earlier and sold his farm. Undaunted by this news, Darrow and Knott headed out to Boysen's old farm, on which they found several frail vines surviving in a field choked with weeds. They transplanted the vines to Knott's farm in Buena Park, California, where he nurtured them back to fruit-bearing health. Walter Knott was the first to commercially cultivate the berry in southern California.  He began selling the berries at his farm stand in 1932 and soon noticed that people kept returning to buy the large, tasty berries. When asked what they were called, Knott said, "Boysenberries," after their originator.  His family's small restaurant and pie business eventually grew into Knott's Berry Farm. As the berry's popularity grew, Mrs. Knott began making preserves, which ultimately made Knott's Berry Farm famous.*
image The Los Angeles Public Library offers this image of a family visiting Knott’s Berry Place in 1941.  I suspect their lives changed dramatically soon after.
imageHopefully, boysenberry production will be so successful that I will need to master the art of making boysenberry jam.  But an even superior goal would be to make ice cream even close to that of the Mountain Berry Ice Cream made at Reimer’s Candies in Three Rivers, California.

Note:  The boysenberry plant was potted 02/27/10.

*  From Wikipedia.  Take it for what it’s worth.


Anonymous said...

I have a Boysenberry plant that my Grandma got from Knott's Berry Farm in the 50s. It lived in Brea, was transplanted to Morro Bay and then to Ojai. Grandma always had Boysenberry jam. I took about 4 clippings about 2 years ago and brought them to Lakewood, CA. Last year I had some harvest but this year it is crazy!! I'm going to try a pie. I'm intimated by canning but maybe I'll try jam too because I have so many. By the way, mine has thorns. Good luck with yours!


Thorns?! Well now that just the opposite of what I learned. Thanks for setting me straight. This morning I purchased a load of blackberries at farmers market and will be making a cobbler. Jam is just another form of cooking. Use the Ball Blue Book of Preserving to help you with the step-by-step process. Give it a shot. You'll enjoy the flavors of summer all year long.

Anonymous said...

Help! My boysenberry plant is loaded, but my neighbor said her Dad's has little white worms in them, sooo... I cut one of mine open and YUK there are tiny whie worms in the ripe berries! What do I do?? Rancho Cucamonga, Ca


*Anonymous - this is my 1st season with boysenberries. I would try spraying the plants and berries with pyrethrum. It's an organic solution that I use on strawberries. Follow the directions and you should be golden.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I just recently purchases a home in Anaheim that has boysenberry plants. Very excited but don't know a thing about them! I also have very thorny plants. I have plants on both side of the house and one of them has black "spots" on the leaves and I can't tell if they are bugs and if so, what are they and how do I get ride of them. I do NOT have a green thumb. I can kill a cactus so any advice is welcomed.
p.s. the previous owner also got his plants from Knott's. so great to have a history. my orange trees are also about 40 years old.
Thanks, Renee
anaheim, ca


Renee: I'm new to boysenberries. I do know that berries are produced on year old canes so once the cane produces berries it needs to be pruned out down to the ground in the fall/winter. The new canes that were produced over the summer should be tied up to a support so you can harvest the berries easily and prune the canes when they're done. The new growth sprawls out ready to be tied up when the pruning is done. Try to find a copy of How to Prune Fruit Trees. It's about $5 and has illustrations to show the way to properly prune.

I use pyrethrum on my edible crops to kill pests. It's supposed to be the safest way. Otherwise, you could try a hard stream of water from your hose in the morning to get rid of the pests.

Your local ag extension should be able to give you some help or a local nursery. Just be careful about chemicals.

Good luck.