Speed Reads

No Relation

Before Washington, D.C., had Marion Barry, Oregon had the marionberry

Marion Barry, who died on Sunday, is probably remembered most outside of Washington, D.C., for his videotaped 1990 bust for smoking crack cocaine. The former four-term mayor of America's capital leaves behind a much more complicated legacy in Washington, though, including helping build the city's black middle class and, in the 1960s, fighting for civil rights and Washington home rule. In Washington, the larger-than-life Barry was known widely as "Mayor for Life," even though he left the mayor's office for a City Council seat in 1999.

Across the country in Oregon, though, Marion Barry was never as famous as the marionberry, a delicious blackberry offshoot developed at Oregon State University and unveiled in 1956 — nine years before Marion Barry arrived in Washington from Memphis. The marionberry is named after Marion County, the home of state capital Salem and the testing ground for the berry.

The marionberry isn't officially the Oregon State berry — a popular bill to make it so has been held up since 2009 by, among other things, a grower of the rival kotataberry, Larry Duyck. But "to say that marionberries are dear to the hearts of Oregonians is like saying that kids like pizza and ice cream," says Rebekah Hubbard at the blog PDXfoodlove: "A total understatement." Oregonians had mixed feelings about their berry's walking homonym 3,000 miles away.

Outside of Oregon, the marionberry is probably best known for its starring role in the Season 2 finale of Portlandia. Here, celebrity chef Bobby Flay talks with Portlandia director Jonathan Krisel in a behind-the-scenes clip from the extended version of the "Brunch Village" episode, arguing about whether the marionberry is just an Oregon word for "blackberry," and mispronouncing the word "Oregon." --Peter Weber