Yes, I am one of those food nerds. If I encounter a new food when I go to a grocery store or farmers market that intrigues me, I actually squeal with delight, take photos of it, or even Google it on my iPhone for more info. Therefore, I have decided to start a new "column" of sorts on The Eatable Life. It is called "Perplexing Produce" and it is dedicated to examining and explaining specific fruits and vegetables that are uncommon, underused, unappreciated, or unheard of altogether in most of the United States. Now I realize that certain regions of the country, particular ethnic communities living within the U.S., or world travelers may, in fact, be familiar with some of the produce that I feature in the column, but nonetheless are in the minority and so deserve greater attention. All that said, let's get started!
For the first Perplexing Produce selection I have chosen the tayberry. These hybrid berries are a cross between the Aurora blackberry (also called a bramble) and the generically-named European raspberry called only by its number: 626/67. They are tart in flavor with lots of seeds. Their red-purple hue is gorgeous - a perfect color amalgamation of the two berries they originate from. Loganberries are also a hybrid of blackberries and raspberries with a similar puckering flavor. Tayberries were first produced in Scotland in 1980 and named after the Tay River, which happens to be the longest river in that country and known for its beauty. In California they come into season in the middle of summer and only for about six weeks. Tayberries are also very delicate when purchased fresh since they are picked only when they are ripe enough to fall off the vine. That means that not many farmers grow them and the ones who do often sell them straight away to local chefs for special seasonal dishes, or canners for making jams. They are naturally high in pectin so are great for canning. For more info on tayberries, check out the links here and here.
I found a jar of tayberry jam at a hip neighborhood café named Local 123 that alongside Fair Trade and single-origin coffees, always stocks locally produced food items for sale. That is where I discovered my little jar of yum that was manufactured by a canner working out of a shop just blocks from my apartment in Berkeley! It is called INNA jam (haha, get it?), and I have seen their name around town because their Pluot (a favorite fruit of mine) and Fresno Chili (I love spicy and sweet combinations) jams have peaked my interest before. I could not resist the Tayberry jar though since I had never even heard of such a thing and needed to learn more. All I can say is...DELICIOUS! The tangy-sour pop of flavor, coupled with a flowery scent and slight crunch due to the seeds, is wonderful! So far I have only sampled the jam on fresh bread with butter, but I imagine it would also work well in a sauce for pork, or as a substutute for lingonberry jam to go with Swedish meatballs. Any other ideas? Yeah for the tayberry!