The tayberry is one of several hybrid berries created by cross-breeding a blackberry with a raspberry. It originated in Scotland and is named after the Scottish river Tay. Grown mostly in small home gardens, the fruit is eaten raw or made into fruits spreads or desserts. It is often compared favorably to the loganberry and the boysenberry, which are somewhat better-known blackberry-raspberry hybrids.
The fruit was created by botanist Derek Jennings, a skilled breeder at the Scottish Crops Research Institute (SCRI) of Invergowrie, Scotland, with the assistance of fellow researcher David Mason. Jennings was also responsible for the Glen Clova raspberry, the Loch Ness blackberry, and several other berries that were commercially successful in the United Kingdom and worldwide. The two men developed the tayberry by crossing an Aurora blackberry with a polyploid Malling Sport raspberry. It was first bred in 1962 but wasn't released commercially until 1979. With large, sweet berries and a pleasant fragrance, the plant has been a hit with home growers.
Like the two fruits from which it is bred, the tayberry is an aggregate fruit that grows on a bramble. The thorny bush runs along the ground before sending up rigid shoots or "canes." The bush can be grown from seed or from root cuttings. The reddish-purple berry is larger and sweeter than most raspberry or blackberry varieties, but still retains some tartness. The bushes yield much fruit, which can be harvested from July through August.
There are a few drawbacks for the home grower looking to cultivate the tayberry. The plant is susceptible to cold-weather damage and does better in climates with mild winters; mulch can be used to protect the roots from the cold. It is also susceptible to viruses. The stems are weak and do better if propped up with a trellis. Finally, new canes will only bear fruit starting with the second year.
Varieties of the tayberry include the tummelberry, which is hardier but not as sweet; the Buckingham tayberry, which has no thorns; and the Medana tayberry, which is certified virus-free. A fruit called the hildaberry — reportedly named for the breeder's wife — was created by crossing a tayberry with a boysenberry.
Tayberries can be used just like raspberries. They may be eaten straight from the bramble or made into jams, jellies, cobblers, pies, and other fruit desserts. A few wineries in the United Kingdom make and sell red tayberry wine. It is said to be sweet and full-bodied.