The Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory on Orchard Avenue at the west end of the Oregon State University campus is releasing three new varieties of blackberry, called Eclipse, Galaxy and Twilight. The Laboratory is part of the Agricultural Research Service, co-operating with OSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station. The varieties were crossbred between eastern blackberries which grow on erect canes, and western blackberries which are prone to trail on the ground. The new varieties all share the traits of having thornless canes described as “semi-erect.”
Different varieties of fresh berries ripen at different times, and each must be picked at the right time and rushed to market, or else it just won’t be fresh fruit. The ARS expects that these berries will expand the market, ripening at different times of year, when other berries aren‘t ripe.
Eclipse is named for the total solar eclipse which passed over Corvallis in 2017. It ripens a few days earlier than its primary ancestor, the Triple Crown. This allows it to provide ripe berries at a time when no previous variety was bearing, while inheriting Triple Crown’s hardiness, fruit production, and flavor.
Mary Peterson, an ARS biological technician, says, “Eclipse inherited Triple Crown’s outstanding flavor, beloved for its sweet, fruity taste, with hints of root beer and spice. But what Eclipse has that Triple Crown doesn’t is a firmer skin that gives you a good pop when you bite down. Firmer skin also means the berries handle and ship better and don’t leak, which is always an attractive feature for the fresh market.”
Galaxy, the second variety, was also bred from Triple Crown and is similar to Eclipse in many ways, but ripens a few days earlier, with a firmer skin and larger, darker fruit. Peterson says, “People who’ve tasted Galaxy have detected hints of blueberry, mint and grape.”
The third variety was named Twilight because it ripens last of the three varieties, four or five days after Eclipse.
Twilight is the product of breeding together seven eastern blackberries and one western, over four generations. It has a higher yield than Eclipse, and in spite of being slightly less sweet, it is described as having a “blackberry jam” flavor, tasting of flowers and honey.
By John Burt