Blackberries grow so voraciously in the Pacific Northwest that it's not rare to stumble across rural barns or abandoned homes that have been completely consumed by the thorny vine. Let them grow too close to a window, and they'll break the glass. They're common — easy to forage and hard to get too excited about. At least compared to the marionberry, a type of blackberry that has become an Oregon obsession.
One of the reasons the marionberry is so beloved is because it is entirely a product of Oregon. It's "born and raised" in state, so to speak.
The marionberry, a cross between Chehalem and Olallie blackberries, was bred at Oregon State University as part of a berry-developing partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that dates back to the early 1900s. It's named for Marion County in the Willamette Valley, where most of the field trials took place (not for former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry).
When the berry was introduced in the 1950s, it was widely hailed as the most delicious blackberry commercial cultivar around. Even today, people rave over its tart-yet-sweet flavor — think of a cross between raspberries and blackberries. (Though there is some raspberry in its DNA, the red fruits are more like a genetic great-great grandparent to the marionberry.)
"It's a mythology here," says OSU research geneticist Chad Finn. Marionberries were "pretty special even before the [berry] industry started to promote marions."