From gift basket jam to fruit grown for fresh picking, the Boysenberry is a well-known fruit with a mysterious history straight from a Hollywood movie. Here is a behind the scenes look at this beloved crop.
In the late 1920’s, George M. Darrow, a berry specialist from the USDA, began receiving reports of a large, reddish-purple berry that was sold in Northern California. The crop was traced to a local farmer, Rudolf Boysen. Darrow enlisted the help of Walter Knott, a Southern California farmer who was also well respected as a fellow berry expert. Knott hadn’t heard of this type of berry either but he agreed to aid Darrow in his search.
Legend has it that Boysen may have received the dewberry/loganberry hybrid from fellow farmer John Lubben who it is speculated may have in turn may have received it directly from Luther Burbank. The pair learned that Rudolf Boysen had abandoned his experiments years earlier and sold off his farm for reasons still unknown. Darrow and Knott met up at Boysen’s old farm, where they found many frail vines surviving in a field choked thick by weeds. Full of curiosity, Knott gathered up several vines for transplant at his farm where he nurtured the vines back to fruit bearing ability.
In 1935, Knott was first able to harvest enough berries for sale at his farm. He noticed a steady stream of repeat customers who favored these large tasty berries over other varieties. When customers asked what him they were called, Knott gave all credit to the source by calling them, “Boysenberries.” As their popularity grew, Mrs. Knott began making preserves from them. His family’s small restaurant and pie business eventually grew into Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. This attraction became world famous over time as the world’s first major entertainment farm.
Boysenberries are quite delicate compared to other commercially grown berries and require greater care than other strains. Most commercially grown boysenberries in the United States are primarily from Oregon. They are processed into other products such as jam, pie, juice, syrup, and ice cream. Globally, New Zealand is currently the world’s largest producer and exporter of boysenberries. The health benefits for boysenberries include:
- High amounts of Vitamin C and fiber, both of which have been shown to help reduce the risks of certain cancers.
- Significant levels of antioxidants to help fight free radical damage in the body. It is almost double that of blueberries, a well-known antioxidant.
- Boysenberries contain ellagic acid, a compound known to fight cancer, many viruses and bacteria.