Living in the Pacific Northwest brings forth an incredible and diverse bounty of produce — especially during this summer harvest season — but there's one fruit that stands alone as the most definitive taste of Oregon summer.
The big, shiny, tender marionberry is a local delicacy with about a two month window (late July to early September) at local farmers' markets and grocery stores.
Named after the Marion county of Oregon (just south of Portland), the berry was developed in the mid 50s by George F. Waldo. Its tart initial flavor gives way to a lingering subtle sweetness, and its texture can range from firm to slightly soft. These taste and texture traits derive from a crossbreeding of several types of berries; chehalem blackberry, raspberry and olallieberry.
The people of Portland are mad for the marionberry, and local chefs highlight the regional ingredient in creative ways — folded within cupcakes, atop pork chops within chutney, churned into gelato, and often in the center of a double-crusted pie.
We at The Kitchn appreciate the superstar fruit in all of its incarnations, and one way to highlight this berry is blended into an unconventional agua fresca. Made with a few simple, complementary ingredients — agave nectar, rose water, plain water and ice cubes, this is the marionberry at its purest! The delightful drink is refreshing any time of day, and has the potential to be frozen, shaved and made into a granita or poured into popsicle molds to carry on with the desserts-on-sticks trend.
Have you ever encountered a marionberry? If so, what did you do with it?
Marionberry Rosewater Agua Fresca
1 pint marionberries (blackberries will do for those who can't get marionberries)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
3/4 teaspoon rose water
3/4 cups water
3-4 ice cubes
Throw all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high for about a minute, until all ingredients are smooth — serve immediately.
Leela Cyd Ross is a private chef, food writer, and photographer based in Portland, Oregon.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)