June’s most beautiful bride is about to make her debut, and she won’t be wearing white. It’s the bright red June-bearing strawberry we are waiting to see at fruit stands, U-Picks and farmers markets around the state.
“It is a real cause for celebration,” said Rebecca Landis, president of the Oregon Farmers’ Markets Association. “The strawberry is the first of a parade of berries that will come throughout the summer.”
And if you’ve ever found yourself remarking that the strawberries you just devoured were the best you’d ever tasted, you have science on your side. According to a 2005 study from Oregon State University, Oregon strawberries have more sugar, a greater sweetness index, and higher anti-oxidant levels than their more-popular California cousins. (Landis said Oregon foodies were not surprised by the study. “We all smugly said, ‘We knew that,'” she said.)
In 2010, Oregon growers produced 23.5 million pounds of strawberries worth more than $16 million. And their very names are Oregonian with regional favorites like Hood, Tillamook, and Pinnacle.
The one drawback to these wonderful berries is that they don’t travel well. Most Oregon strawberries are sliced and frozen for commercial use, so only residents and visitors can get their hands on the freshest, best goods. Starting in June, you can do just that at farmers markets around the state. And if you miss the June berries, don’t despair; Oregon farmers are now offering ever-bearing varieties of strawberries, which should be available throughout the market season.
Even better than market fresh: There is nothing like pulling a plump, sun-warmed berry off the vine and popping it into your mouth (even though you know you should wash it first.) Many Oregon farmers offer U-Pick strawberries, but always call first for availability. Try: Albeke Farms, in Oregon City; Bushue’s Family Farm Market and Nursery, Boring; Farmer John’s Produce, McMinnville; South Barlow Berries, Canby; Draper Girls Farm, Hood River; Bella Organic, Portland; and Columbia Farms U-Pick on Sauvie Island.
If you are more of a mind for festivals, don’t miss these:
French Prairie Gardens Strawberry Festival in St. Paul, June 11-12, 16-19. Kicks off with a new “Berries, Brews and BBQ” event.
Silverton Hills Strawberry Festival, June 19. A popular Father’s Day tradition since 1951.
Eat your Berries! Oregon Berry Festival, July 22-23. Held at the Ecotrust Building in downtown Portland.
about author Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.
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