It isn’t a plant. It’s a bush.
And right now, Mike a farmer in Perris - just outside of Corona - is spreading fertilizer so that in late May, he can harvest these boysenberries.
He does all the work himself, from planting to pruning to harvesting.
“California’s an excellent place to grow the boysenberries. They do like a little bit cooler weather and it does get a little warm out here but one of the advantages we have is it’s very dry,” said Mike.
California used to be rooted with thousands of acres of Boysen bushes, but today these 200 on Mike’s three acres are some of the few that remain.
Mike can tell you it’s been a real decline for a berry that was actually developed in SoCal - in Anaheim the 1920s by Rudolph Boysen. The large blackberry-related fruit became an instant classic. So much so that a little fruit stand off Highway 39 selling Boysens turned into modern day Knott’s Berry Farm.
“You could buy them fresh from the stand, but if you don’t have them growing close by then you’re not going to have that option. So that’s why you don’t see as many boysenberries as you used to,” Mike said.
So why has this once fruitful berry nearly gone extinct? Well the Boysenberry is temperamental.
Boysenberries take an expert green thumb and time - lots of it. The fruit only grows on the part of the bush that has grown out from last year. And after waiting and pruning and digging out, the picked berries have a shelf life of about three days.
“That means you’re not going to see them the grocery stores because they’re actually going to spoil before you can get them to the store. You will find them at a farmer’s market sometimes because the farmers can get them in within a day or two. But for the most part it’s very difficult to get them available,” said Mike.
That’s why Mike and his wife make hams and syrups - the majority of the surviving Boysenberry business.
“Being able to start with something that just looks like a stick in the ground and turning it into a product that’s an artisan jam that people enjoy in their homes is a real treat for us,” said Mike.
And while it’s hard work to bear the fruit of all of this labor, for those who still grow this California classic, it’s a labor of love.