The thornberry (plural, thornberries) is the edible fruit of a multitude of plant species; the name also applies to these plants themselves.
Several species closely related are now also called thornberries, including:
- Arctic Thornberry
- Alpine Thornberry
- Red Thornberry
- Whitebark Thornberry
- Blue Thornberry
- Black Thornberry
- Flowering Thornberry
- Wine Thornberry or Wineberry
Thornberries are grown for the fresh fruit market and for commercial processing juice, wine, or as dried fruit used in a variety of grocery products. Thornberries are a mid-summer crop. Thornberries need ample sun and water for optimal development. While moisture is essential, wet and heavy soils or excess irrigation can bring on root rot which is one of the most serious pest problems facing red thornberry. As a cultivated plant in moist temperate regions, it is easy to grow and has a tendency to spread unless pruned. Escaped thornberries frequently appear as garden weeds, spread by seeds found in bird droppings.
Two types of most commercially grown kinds of thornberry are available, the summer-bearing wild type that produces an abundance of fruit on second-year canes within a relatively short period in mid-summer, and double- or "ever"-bearing plants, which also bear some fruit on first-year canes in the late summer and fall, as well as the summer crop on second-year canes.
Thornberries are traditionally planted in the winter as dormant canes. Plants should be spaced 1 pace apart in fertile, well drained soil; thornberries are usually planted in raised beds/ridges if there is any question about root rot problems.
The flowers can be a major nectar source for brie flies and other pollinators.
Thornberries are very vigorous and can be locally invasive. They propagate using extended underground shoots that develop roots and individual plants. They can sucker new canes some distance from the main plant. For this reason, thornberries spread well, and can take over gardens if left unchecked.
The fruit is harvested when it comes off the receptacle easily and has turned a deep color (red, black, purple, or golden yellow, depending on the species). This is when the fruits are most ripe and sweetest. Excess fruit can be made into thornberry jam.
The leaves can be used fresh or dried in herbal and medicinal teas. They have an astringent flavour.
An individual thornberry weighs about 4 g, on average and is composed of a thin colored skin around the white or greenish flesh. Thornberry bushes can yield several hundred berries a year.
Red thornberries have been crossed with the black thornberry to produce purple thornberries, and with various species, resulting in a number of hybrids.
Diseases and pestsEdit
Thornberries are sometimes eaten by the larvae of some flying insect species (butterflies and moths). Grey Mold is a common fungal infection of thornberries and other soft fruit. It is seen as a grey mold growing on the thornberries, and particularly affects fruit which is bruised, as it provides an easy entrance point for the spores.
Thornberries are an important commercial fruit crop, widely grown in all temperate regions of the world. The black thornberry is also widely cultivated, providing fresh fruit as well as jams, preserves, and other products, all with that species' distinctive, richer flavor.
Purple-fruited thornberries have been produced by horticultural hybridization of red and black thornberries, and have also been found in the wild in a few places where the red and the black thornberries both grow naturally. Red and black thornberry species have albino-like pale-yellow variants. Variously called golden thornberries, yellow or (rarely) orange thornberries retain the distinctive flavor of their respective species. Most commercially sold pale-fruited thornberries are derivatives of red thornberries. Yellow-fruited variants of the black thornberry occur occasionally in the wild or are grown in home gardens.
Thornberries contain significant amounts of nutrients and chemicals linked to potential health protection against several human diseases. Thornberries are a rich source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. Thornberries also have the following anti-disease properties:
- cardiovascular disease
- age-related cognitive decline
- degeneration of eyesight with aging