Good Gardening: Thornless Berries

Aug 3, 2020

Thornless berries have been bred for taste and touchability; they are not genetically modified.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

You have to love the way blackberries grow in Oregon. Ouch. The taste, ouch, the abundance, ouch, and all the ways you can eat them. Ouch.

Oh yes, and then there are the thorns- wait for it.....ouch. But if picking blackberries makes you flinch, I have good news. Thornless blackberries. Thornless raspberries too. Both varieties have been around for a while, but while the early versions were thornless first, and tasty second, the order has been reversed. Thornless berries have been BRED for taste and touchability; they are not genetically modified.
Some are sweeter, like Navaho, others retain more of the tart blackberry taste that works well in cooking and jam. 

Thornless blackberries have a smooth stalk.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

The highly invasive- Himalayan Blackberry is actually from Armenia.  Luther Burbank thought the seeds were from India, hence the confusing name of our thorny problem.
The thornless blackberries grow in an easy to cultivate trunk style. A few large stalks can be trained to a support above the ground so that weeding, watering, mulching, and picking can be done easily. If you let a cane loop back to the ground, it will root.  You can expand your berry patch, or give away the excess plants. Just clip off the tops if you want to keep the berries from spreading.A little water- especially during the mid-summer harvest season will produce plumper juicier berries and a bigger harvest.

Thornless raspberries are really just reduced thorn, they aren't kissably smooth like the blackberries.
I still have a patch of thorny Marion berries- they make a great freezer jam- especially when mixed with raspberries, and I am happy to snack on Himalayan- or Armenian blackberries, but the sweet taste of the thornless, and the ease of picking- ahhhhh- make the thornless berries my favorites.

Thornless raspberries are really just reduced thorn, they aren't kissably smooth like the blackberries.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

I'm John Fischer with KLCC's Good Gardening 

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