Wonderful tour at the OSU Lewis-Brown Horticulture Research Farm in Corvallis yesterday morning. I was headed up to Portland and had planned to celebrate cherries along the way, but when I saw the advertisement for the annual tour, staffed by horticulture faculty and USDA research geneticists, I Could. Not. Resist. Fascinating place, and just a tiny bit scary. This is where they keep gene banks of as many varieties of small fruits and other plants, cross cultivars to make new ones, and experiment with things like disease hardiness, fruit size and quality and color, and other desired elements for commercial food crops. I have mixed feelings about this, as you might imagine, because this research makes a product that is meant for mass production, but it’s still really cool.
I had the opportunity to talk with Chad Finn, the friendly and accessible USDA geneticist who heads up the small fruit team, and some of his staff, about the breeding of blackberries. They had a half-dozen varieties to sample, some so new they don’t have names, and others that could be appearing on the local market soon. Chad pointed out how some berries are adapted to be IQF (individually quick frozen) and others are perfect for baking, with a more compact profile. The ones next to the Marions above are perfect bakers. Others can be over 2-inches long and monstrous. They didn’t sample any of those, sadly.
I took some dreadful pictures and notes for my upcoming blackberry article. I manipulated the images a bit so you can see how different the drupelets (berry bumps), berry size, and color look. And a wide range of flavor, too. I did learn that the Tupy-type blackberry, the one grown in Mexico and other places for long-range shipping, tastes like shit: bitter and watery and dull. Avoid at all costs. Come to Oregon instead.
I’d write more, but I have to finish said article, as well as do about ten thousand other things before my house guests arrive.