SERIES – Knotts: Birth of the Boysenberry

Rudolph Boysen, creator of the boysenberryIn the 1920s, hoping to take advantage of the beach traffic along what was then Grand Boulevard (now known as Beach Boulevard), Mr. Walter Knott decided to set up a berry stand. Originally he just leased the spot, but in 1927 he began to buy up the property where his business grew. Upon crossing paths with Rudolph Boysen (1895–1950, photo at right) – a Napa man who had been experimenting to create a marvelously fat and juicy new berry hybrid – the future of Walter Knott’s little fruit stand was forever changed.

After moving to Orange County, Boysen worked as the Superintendent of Anaheim City Parks from 1921 to 1950. Back in Napa, he had been experimenting with various plant combinations for years and in 1923 his new “sensation berry of the 20th Century” (a cross between several varieties of blackberry, raspberry, and loganberry) successfully grew and bore fruit. Without any commercial success on the horizon, Boysen allegedly abandoned his crop after experiencing a back injury and finding the prickly bramble too difficult to cultivate. As the story goes, a USDA agent named George M. Darrow heard rumor of Boysen’s berry. Rudolph had since sold his farm and the vines were left to die and be covered by weeds but Darrow tracked down the farm and rescued a few of the frail, dying vines. He then enlisted the help of Walter Knott as a berry expert and Knott was able to bring the vines back to life on his Buena Park farm. Knott began selling the berries at his stand and soon noticed that they were a hit with the customers. Naming the fruit after Boysen, he amassed a fortune during the Great Depression thanks to his new product. No word on how much of that fortune was shared with Rudolph, though…

Boysenberries are now famous around the world and available in all sorts of products from jam to soda to beer to Middle Eastern shisha (tobacco-free smoking molasses for hookahs), as seen below.
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