History of the Boysenberry

boysenberries-historyThe Boysenberry (Rubus ursinus var loganobaccus cv Boysenberry) is a Rubus hybrid berry and believed to have arisen from a cross between Loganberries, Raspberries and Blackberries in the 1920s in California. However the following story – one of determination and some good luck – is generally accepted as the true story of its discovery.

It starts off in the Depression in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s – a time of hardship for many. Swedish immigrant Rudolf Boysen worked his ranch in Napa Valley in California and loved to experiment with new varieties of flowers and crossing berry plants.

He had planted some seeds developed from crossing the flowers of raspberries, loganberries and blackberries. The plant eventually produced amazing large, succulent berries, but over time he neglected them and sold his ranch, moving to another in Anaheim.

Thankfully he had passed on some of these hybrid plants to another gardener who got in touch with the US Department of Agriculture about this wonderful new berryfruit. There, berryfruit specialist Mr George Darrow was so impressed that he set off to try and discover more.

He contacted a small fruit grower and nurseryman Walter Knott at his berry farm in Buena Park, California, and together they eventually tracked down Mr Boysen. He took them to his former ranch to locate some plants, but all they found were some withered and straggly plants, with no berries on them.

Undeterred, Mr Knott had the plants cleaned up, fertilised and watered, and planted an experimental garden of some 25 different varieties of bush berries from various parts of the world. As springtime came and Mr Boysen’s plants didn’t surpass any of the other plants, Mr Knott had them dug up and destroyed, and no cutting plants were saved.

You can then imagine his feelings when six weeks later the berries on the mother plants came out of the bloom, with Boysen’s plants producing the biggest berries of all. Knott quickly returned to the old farm and obtained all the old plants he could for a propagating programme.

As the new berry had no name Knott, in consultation with the US Government Bureau of Plant Industries at Beltsville, decided that the new berry should be named Boysenberry. And so it was born…

Progress over the years

By 1935 plants were being made available for sale commercially and by 1937 the boysenberry was being promoted in the USA as a promising new trailing blackberry type suitable for commercial use.

It was around that time that it was introduced into New Zealand, and within ten years it had been well established in the Nelson region as well as other areas of the country.

Over the next few decades planting steadily increased as the potential for the berry to be processed and developed into a viable fruit was recognised.

While it took some time for the boysenberry to be introduced to consumers outside the USA and New Zealand, once they ‘discovered’ this wonderful fruit they have remained loyal customers. Since its inception Boysenberries New Zealand has had a long standing relationship with customers throughout Europe, and the boysenberry was introduced to the UK in the 1990s.

Nowadays New Zealand is the world’s largest producer and international marketer of this succulent fruit.