By Amy Grant
Marion blackberries, sometimes referred to as the “Cabernet of Blackberries,” are the premier blackberry cultivated and used in everything from yogurt, jam, baked goods and juices. They have a complex, rich flavor, deep reddish purple color and superior texture and size over other blackberry varietals. That’s not all though. Read on for further information regarding “what are marionberries?”
What are Marionberries?
Marionberry plants are cross breeds made up of two previous hybrids, the small but delicious Chehalem and the larger heavily productive Ollalie. Development of this berry began in 1945 through the efforts of George F. Waldo of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was tested in the Willamette Valley. Subsequently released for cultivation under its name of Marionberry in 1956, it is named after Marion County in Oregon.
Additional Marionberry Information
Marionberries are called ‘caneberries,’ meaning a type of blackberry with a limited number of long (up to 20 feet), but prolific in production canes. This vigorous grower can produce up to 6 tons of fruit per acre.
The Willamette Valley in Oregon is the Caneberry Capitol of the World with perfect climatic conditions for marionberry growing. Marionberry growing conditions are optimal with moist spring rains and summers, which are warm during the day and cool at night to produce sweet, plump fruit. 90% of the world’s marionberries are grown near Salem, Oregon.
The hybrid captures the very best of the two crossed varieties with an intense berry flavor, plump juiciness and high levels of Vitamin C, gallic acid, and rutin – antioxidants which are purported to be cancer fighters and aid in circulation. Other health benefits include the berries high fiber content and low calorie count, just 65-80 calories per cup!
Additionally, the berries of marionberry plants freeze beautifully and, when thawed, maintain their shape and texture.
How to Grow Marionberries
I’ve got you now. I know you are chompin’ at the bit to know how to grow your own marionberries. First of all, marionberries ripen through spring and early summer, reaching peak production during July and ending in early August. The berries must be hand-picked, ideally in early in the morning.
Choose a full sun exposure site for growing marionberries. The soil should have a pH of 5.5 or greater; if it is less than this you need to then amend it with lime. Dig in 4-5 inches of good compost or manure into the top foot of the soil the autumn prior to planting.
Plant the marionberry in the early spring, to an inch up from the base but not covering the crown of the plant. Tamp the soil around the plant firmly and water it in well. Multiple plants should be 5-6 feet apart and rows around them 8-10 feet apart.
The marionberry plant should be supported with stake and wire trellises with each pair of stakes positioned 4-5 feet apart with 2 wires strung between. One wire should hang at 5 feet high and the other 18 inches lower than the first. Use this trellis to train the first emergent canes or primocanes while leaving the new canes that grow up over the summer to trail at ground level.
Harvest the marionberries from mid to late summer and on into the fall. Remove canes that produced berries from the base of the plant in late autumn and train the primocanes around the wire trellis. Winterize your berries by covering with burlap or straw to protect from frost damage.
Marionberry plants are susceptible to leaf and cane spotting, which should be treated with fungicide. Otherwise, this plant is easy to grow and, as mentioned, prolific in production. So get out some ice cream or simply eat them fresh from the vine and try not to stain that white shirt.