5 Uncommon Summer Berries Worth a Try

By: Emily Lee


Photo by: jatrax ©jatrax

jatrax, jatrax

Part of what makes summer so dreamy is the fleeting harvest period for sweet, plump berries. Come winter, all we’re left with are memories of the fruity, bubbling-hot pies that lined our picnic tabletops just a few short months ago. Needless to say, we’re getting our fill of the season’s gems while the opportunity lasts.

We’re also branching into new territory, moving beyond basic strawberries and blueberries, and we’re liking what we’re finding: Earthy marionberries, tangy tayberries, tart gooseberries and other whimsically-named fruits that you maybe haven’t tried yet but will instantly change the way you approach summer meals once you have a taste. We can’t guarantee you’ll see them in your local grocery store, but these five uncommon summer berries are worth searching high and low to find.

Marionberries (above)

A native Oregonian, this plump summer jewel is a cross between two different varieties of blackberry and is often referred to as the “Cabernet of Blackberries” for its rich flavor. If you live outside of the Pacific Northwest, you may have a hard time getting your hands on marionberries. But when you do, your first move should be to make a pie, crumble or fresh batch of scones.


Photo by: jatrax ©jatrax

jatrax, jatrax


A cross between blackberries and red raspberries, tayberries are barely sweet in their natural form. But the most-important thing to know is that the fruit makes a truly addictive batch of jam with the help of pure cane sugar and lemon juice. Croissants, shortbread and toast will all benefit from a generous spoonful, so be sure to have a jar on hand for your next brunch party. Try it as a substitute for raspberry jam in this sweet and buttery crostata recipe.


Photo by: jaye19 ©jaye19

jaye19, jaye19


Dip your face close to a bowl of freshly picked elderberries, and you’ll get the unmistakable sweet-and-sour aroma of wine grapes. In most places, elderberries don’t come ripe until September, but in the South and Southern California they can ripen as early as late May. When ripe, elderberries are sweet and therefore ideal for the production of syrup. Once you have the syrup, you’re one step closer to elderberry ice cream.


Photo by: Susan Wolfe ©2008 Susan Wolfe

Susan Wolfe, 2008 Susan Wolfe


With their taut green skin, it’s easy to mistake gooseberries for mere grapes. In reality, they’re so much more versatile — but also harder to come by. Be on close lookout for these firm, ribbed beauties at your local farmers’ market from May until August. Because of their tart character, they’re best for pickling, or when cooked down with sugar to make cobblers, tarts, pies and jams. For starters, we suggest this sweet and buttery Gooseberry Tart.


Photo by: Lew Robertson ©© Lew Robertson/FoodPix

Lew Robertson, © Lew Robertson/FoodPix


Native to California, these reddish-purple berries are prized for their large size and sweet-tart flavor. They’re excellent served over Greek yogurt, or as a replacement for blackberries and raspberries in pie and jam recipes. If you can get your hands on some boysenberries, be sure to use them immediately, as the thin-skinned berries leak and bruise easily within a few days of harvest.

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