As Georgia is to peaches and Florida is to citrus, Oregon is to berries. As far back as 1885, historians were raving that “there is no country in the known world where wild berries are so common as in Oregon.” Today, the state’s farmers produce more than 50 million pounds (22,680 metric tons) of blackberries alone each year, which means there’s plenty of sweetness to go around. If you find yourself in Portland during berry season (June–August), don’t leave without sampling the Pacific Northwest’s sweet summer bounty.
In addition to classic strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, the Northwest is loaded with hybrid varieties. Here’s a quick berry primer:
- Marionberry: A cross between the less-well-known Chehalem and Olallieberry blackberries, these tart berries were invented in Oregon and are a regional favorite, featured in specialties like sweet ice cream and savory barbecue sauce.
- Loganberry: Can’t choose between raspberries and blackberries? A hybrid of the two, these long, maroon berries promise the best of both worlds.
- Boysenberry: These big, reddish-purple berries have been popular since the 1930s, and are believed to be a cross between blackberries and Loganberries.
Fruit tastes sweetest when picked straight from the vine, so grab your sunhat and head to Sauvie Island, a rural oasis just 10 miles (16 km) north of downtown Portland. This Manhattan-sized isle is home to a handful of welcoming farms flush with U-pick deals and family-friendly events. At Sauvie Island Farms, a local favorite for strawberries since the 1960s, visitors can fill their buckets with six delicious varieties of berries, including three types of raspberries. The cornucopia of cherries, blueberries and other fruit at nearby Bella Organic are all 100% certified organic by Oregon Tilth. And Kruger’s Farm has a wide selection of U-pick produce, including boysenberries, Marionberries, tomatoes and peppers, along with frequent summer concerts and kid-friendly hay rides.
For more berry-picking hotspots, take a road trip along one of three Oregon Farm Loops lacing the nearby Mt. Hood Territory. Located less than an hour from Portland, these self-guided tours include stops at dozens of fields and farm stands where visitors can forage their own fruit or grab pre-picked pints and even homemade berry pies. In all cases, crops vary by season and availability, so call ahead to ensure sweet success.
OREGON BERRY FESTIVAL
The annual Oregon Berry Festival celebrates the year’s bountiful harvest each July at the peak of the season, promising the ripest, juiciest berries for all to enjoy. Fruit-lovers flock to this free fete at Northwest Portland’s Ecotrust building, where more than 40 booths feature a wealth of berry-centric foods and fun. Sample Marionberry vodka, boysenberry jam, blackberry drinking vinegar and other treats made by local artisans, as well as pints of farm-fresh fruit for sale. Once you’ve eaten your fill, relax at the Bluesberry stage for live music, cooking demos and family-friendly entertainment.
No time for a farm excursion? During the summer months, local farmers come to you. In fact, the Portland metro area hosts more than 40 weekly farmers’ markets, each chock full of organic and local produce, so find one nearby and load up on farm-to-table bounty.