Sweet, easy and fun — that’s why they call it cherry picking. In 2020 Oregon had 12,000 acres of sweet cherries producing more than 112.8 million pounds of the delicious fruit. That means there’s likely plenty of Bings, Royal Anns, Rainiers and Chelans for your picking basket if you visit during cherry season, which peaks each year around mid-June to July, depending on the variety. There are plenty of options in the Hood River Valley on the Hood River Fruit Loop, but if you’re headed out to the eastern side of the Columbia River Gorge in June and July, cherry opportunities abound as you travel along the East Gorge Food Trail. The sunny, rolling hills of Mosier and The Dalles offer U-pick and farm stands from some pretty special farms — some that have been operating for well over a hundred years.
The folks at Root Orchards in Mosier have been a cherry-growing family since 1878. U-pick everything from Early Robins to Tietons, and enjoy beautiful views of the dry side of the Gorge. Root Orchards is open for picking seven days a week when cherries are on. Check their website for updates.
Evans Fruit Company grows everything from great sour cherries like the cherished Montmorency varietal to numerous sweet cherries. If you like the deep-red color and flavor of Bing cherries, try sweet Santina, which ripens a week earlier, or Regina, an intense cherry that arrives two weeks later. Rainier, with its yellow and pink-blush skin, has almost a cult following. Evans is expecting to open mid-June, and helpfully lists its varieties in ripening order on the website.
For certified-organic cherries, stop in at Idiot’s Grace Farm — named by owner Brian McCormick in a nod to the unpredictable nature of the farming business. This small family farm is Oregon Tilth Certified Organic. Look for sweet Bings, Lamberts, Vans, Reginas and Attikas as well as pie cherries. (The farm also grows pears and grapes, which become Idiot’s Grace wines.)
For cherry fans who just can’t get enough, Rosedale Fruit Farm has two U-pick locations in Mosier, one for early season and one for their mid- to late-season varieties. Check their website in early June for updates, since every year’s dates are slightly different. Columbia View Orchards is just under 2 miles east of Mosier and offers U-pick and picked cherries for just a bit more per pint from mid-June to July.
Want to skip the U-pick and get right to the cherries? For pints and flats in The Dalles, call Orchard View Cherries — a fourth-generation farm that packs over 10,000 pounds of cherries a year — to place an order ahead of time. Or visit Sandoz Farm stand in The Dalles, another heritage farm that offers a large selection of local goodies using their own produce, including jams, canned fruit and pickled vegetables.