Here in the Northwest, we have the perfect climate for growing a variety of berries, which begin to ripen as early as May with the first strawberries. Growing your own berries, visiting a U-pick farm, and foraging for wild berries are all still viable options even with coronavirus restrictions. Also, with their abundant health benefits and anti-inflammatory properties, now is a better time than ever to stock up on these superfoods. Read on for more about popular varietals, U-pick options, and foraging.
Available: Early May – June (with later varietals often available Aug – Sept).
Sweet strawberries are a favorite for kids of all ages. Juicy strawberries, like most berries, are delicate and easily perishable and taste best fresh within a few days of picking. They are also considered an easy-to-grow berry for beginners. Strawberry shortcake anyone?
For more information on planting, growing, and harvesting strawberries click here for The Old Farmer’s Almanac growing guide
Available: Mid-June – July.
Every time I bite into a fresh raspberry, it takes me back to summer in my grandmother’s garden, where I plucked the delicious fruits straight from the vine. Raspberries are available from about midsummer to as late as the first frost and are delicious in jams and jellies.
For more information on planting, growing, and harvesting raspberries click here for The Old Farmer’s Almanac growing guide.
Available: July-September (late May – October in some regions).
Blueberries are by far my favorite berry. They are a little hardier, very easy to grow, and freeze nicely. One year, I planted a few bushes in my back yard, and they are among the lowest maintenance plants I own. They produce delicious berries for us to enjoy on cereal or eat by the handful, and they are especially wonderful on vanilla ice cream (store-bought or homemade). For more information on planting, growing, and harvesting blueberries click here for The Old Farmer’s Almanac growing guide.
Available: Mid July – Aug.
The Marion blackberry, marketed as a marionberry, is a blackberry hybrid and Oregon native. More about marionberry in the Spruce Eats here. Marionberries are delicious in all the ways you might enjoy blackberries. Baked desserts, ice cream, shakes, etc.
Available: Mid July – mid-August.
The Loganberry, a hybrid of a blackberry and a raspberry that resembles a blackberry, was accidentally created in California. If you like blackberries and raspberries you are sure to enjoy this delicious fruit.
The good news is that U-pick berry (and fruit) picking is generally still an approved activity in light of COVID-19 restrictions. Farms that are providing these services will likely have heightened restrictions and hygiene protocols, though, so plan ahead. Whether or not you go is dependent on your personal comfort level. Before you go, make sure to call your favorite farm (or visit their website), to learn about their new protocols to avoid any surprises. (When I called the farm we usually visit for strawberry picking, for example, I found out that they are only allowing children over the age of 12 as part of their heightened measures.) A few links with ideas of where to go:
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a great article, here, with 12 ideas of where to go around Washington.
The Parent Map guide, available here, includes 20 ideas of where to pick in and around Seattle. (Note, although this pops up as a new guide, it is a link to an older post from pre-COVID.)
The Travel Portland article, available here, lists ideas of where to go as well as COVID-19 resources.
The Portland Monthly article, available here, has general U-pick info.
Lane County (Eugene, Springfield, and beyond)
The handy guide produced by the Lane County Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, available here, lists U-pick options and a map for Lane County farms.
Foraging for Berries
If you are not sure about U-pick as an option, foraging for wild berries can also be fun. Childhood summers for me always included foraging for blackberries, salmonberries, and red huckleberries around our land. Other popular wild berries include black huckleberry, red currant, golden currant, and salal. Disclaimer! Make sure that if you venture into the wild to pick your own berries, you are well informed about what you are picking, and what you are ingesting.
More information about edible berries of the Northwest from the University of Washington here.
Choosing, Storing and Freezing Berries
Last but not least, for more information about storing and freezing berries, check out this article from Better Homes & Gardens here.
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