Thornless blackberry, a pleasure to harvest!

Thornless blackberry

Blackberry is one of the most prized berries for jams. Thornless varieties make the pleasure even more appealing! Here are the most common thornless blackberry varieties you’re likely to find, and how to plant them.

Thornless blackberry varieties

Early blackberries, perfect for the beginning of the season

  • ‘Arapaho’ blackberry: one of the earliest. Grows upright, which means you don’t need much staking. Its fruits are quite large for blackberries, from 1 to nearly 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm).
  • ‘Freedom’ blackberry: starts flowering early on in spring. Canes from the previous year bloom early, meaning you get berries early June. A second wave is harvestable in July on canes that grew that same spring.
  • ‘Apache’: blooming begins early in summer, and continues as long as the weather permits. First fruits appear around the middle of June.

Late thornless blackberry, wrapping up the summer

  • Flower of a thornless blackberry variety without a thorn in sight!‘Navaho’: actually among the first thornless varieties discovered. Not so sweet, but very tasty flavor. Grows stiff, upright stems, so only minimal staking is required.
  • ‘Chester’: grows shorter than other thornless varieties. Berries appear in August.
  • ‘Triple Crown’: Early August is when these fruits appear. The large berries get sweeter and sweeter until fully ripe.

Doing away with thorns!

How did thornless blackberry appear?

New varieties appear everytime cross-pollination occurs. Professional growers, and occasionally amateurs who are patient enough to experiment, identify new cultivars with new traits. Sometimes fruits are larger, smaller, sweeter, tarter… or the plant is more able to resist this or that disease.

Whenever a blackberry specimen appears that doesn’t have any thorns, it’s an interesting discovery! Growers then describe the plant in a plant patent, and start propagating it through cloning. Cloning, in most cases, is simply preparing cuttings so that child plants are identical to the mother plant.

Are thornless blackberries better?

For harvesting, definitely! No more tears, and if you wear gloves, it’s only to avoid getting hard-to-remove stains on your fingers. However, some say that thornless berries have less taste. In some cases, they’re sweeter, but the sweetness is simply increased sugar; the flavor lacks in complexity and depth.

What is your experience?

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Bob
CC BY-SA 2.0: Carol Jacobs-Carre