The boysenberries are upon us! This morning I picked two and a half pounds, and that is just the first harvest of the season. There are SO MANY more to come, all in various stages of ripeness. This is when I start picking berries every two to three days. I think they are better this year than they were last year. They are so sweet and tart, I think I ate a half pound just while picking.
I have many plans for berries this year! I will be making jam, both with and without seeds, and I would like to make some syrup as well. I'll be freezing some for cobblers later, and I think I might make a tart or galette for dessert tonight.
The berry plants we have are Thornless Boysenberries. This is what Wikipedia has to say about their origin:
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 had never heard of the new berry, but he agreed to help Darrow in his search.
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.
Fun Fact: My dad used to work at Knott's Berry Farm when he was younger! I have still yet to visit that theme park.
Finding the perfect time to pick a berry is hard. I've found that they are perfectly ready when they give a bit of resistance, but still come off easily. If you are smashing the little cells when you pull, they aren't ready yet. Give them another day or two. If they cover your fingers in juice when you barely touch them, they are past their prime.
When you bring them inside fill your sink or a bowl with water and a splash of white or cider vinegar. Let them soak for a bit, swishing them gently as you put them in the water. The vinegar will kill a lot of the little bacteria that accelerate spoilage, making them last a bit longer in your fridge. When you do store them, place them in a shallow dish so that you have only two to three layers of berries. Any more and the ones on the bottom will crush. They should last a few days that way, maybe a week if you are lucky.
One of my favorite ways to eat berries is fresh, and maybe with a bit of sweet whipped cream if I'm feeling naughty. ;)
Are you harvesting anything yet?