First, it was strawberries. Soon, blueberries were ripe for picking. Blackberries and raspberries are next in the seasonal rollout of fresh, delicious and healthy berries grown in Oregon. Statistics support the notion that Oregon is a very berry state and with the fourth annual LifeWise Oregon Berry Festival taking place next week, it’s a great time to celebrate Oregon’s bounty of berries.
“I like to use the word ‘premium’ to describe our wonderful and delicious berries,” says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. “How many times are we told to eat something because it’s good for us and it actually tastes great as well? Anyone who has eaten an Oregon-grown berry knows just how special it is.”
Now is a great time to enjoy fresh berries, and they can be a tasteful treat year around in frozen form, canned or as an ingredient in other food products.
“Oregon is well known locally and internationally for many of its agricultural products, not the least of which are berries,” says ODA Marketing Director Gary Roth. “We grow so many different varieties and we lead the nation in production of some berries. We have developed new varieties that are now consumed around the world. People who live in Oregon know and appreciate the opportunity to obtain berries of very high quality, whether it’s at a local farm stand or the neighborhood grocery store. Our berries are equally well received overseas, both in fresh and processed forms.”
This year’s berry season in Oregon got off to a quick start with a relatively warm spring. Strawberries, which are winding down, have been in harvest for several weeks and are the traditional pacesetter for the rest of the berries. Blueberries are now bountiful, with blackberries and raspberries rapidly ripening. Later this year, on the southern Oregon Coast, cranberries will be harvested to complete the annual production cycle of the Oregon berry.
The latest US Census of Agriculture shows that Oregon is a big player in the nation’s berry production. There are 1,471 farms in Oregon growing berries in general, ranking fifth in the US behind California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Despite its geographic diversity, Oregon ranks top in the nation for production of blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, and black raspberries and commercial berry production can be found in 34 of the state’s 36 counties. Oregon is number three in the production of blueberries, strawberries, and red raspberries.
"Oregon has a perfect climate for berries, with our cool, wet springs and warm hot summers that let the berries hang on the canes longer than in other regions and develop a great flavor profile as well as a high amount of polyphenols’ that can have a positive health impact when you consume the berries,” says Cat McKenzie, marketing director of the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission.
“Taste is still the number one reason people buy and eat Oregon berries,” says says McKenzie. “Without good taste, all the health benefits in the world won’t do any good because people aren’t going to eat anything that tastes terrible. We all know that Oregon berries taste great.”
Oregon berries will be in the spotlight at the LifeWise Oregon Berry Festival July 18-19. The free family-friendly event includes a two-day farmers market, a children’s booth with activities and crafts, a main stage with cooking demonstrations and entertainment, health and wellness seminars, and much more. This year’s edition of the festival will feature a “Know Your Oregon Berries” booth, which will provide berry handling and storage tips, harvest dates, and other information to help Oregonians get the most out of local berries. The festival culminates with the Gala Berry Dinner Saturday, July 19th, with a berry centric menu featuring some of Portland’s top chefs.
Tickets must be purchased for the dinner, but the rest of the festival is free. The festival is being held at the Ecotrust Event Space, NW 10th and NW Johnson St. in Portland. More information is available here.