Editor’s note: Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions have eased, but businesses may ask you to wear a face cover – bring one along and be patient and kind if asked to wear it. It’s also wildfire season – plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.
Summertime in Oregon is all about the fruit — much more than the plump, juicy berries we find at U-pick stands and farmers markets in nearly every corner of the state.
We’re talking fruit beer, fruit cider, fruit-based distilled spirits and fresh fruit used in making everything from the decadent Peruvian dishes and cocktails at Andina in Portland to the marionberry milkshakes at Burgerville statewide.
Chris Sarles is chief executive officer of Salem-based Oregon Fruit Products, the 81-year-old company known for black vintage-label cans of fresh fruit purees that are perfect for pie-making. He’s seen the evolution and growth of the local fruit industry as more people — especially brewers — here and internationally come to associate Oregon with spectacular fruit.
In fact, more than 125 breweries statewide (many of which are mentioned below) use Oregon Fruit Products; internationally it’s 500 or more. “Oregon is synonymous with quality throughout the world,” Sarles says. “We continue to add brewers from all across the country.”
Here are 7 ways visitors can enjoy Oregon fruit this summer and beyond, in all of its glorious bounty:
1. Tour local farms
There’s something extra special about getting Oregon fruit straight from the source. To find the freshest local offerings of farmers across the state, take a self-guided journey along one of the Oregon Food Trails (and be aware of what fruit in season). Sample the farm stands selling homemade jams and more along the, or check out the cranberry bogs along the Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail in Bandon. Berry picking abounds in the Willamette Valley, home to the Great Oaks and the South Willamette Valley food trails. Enjoy an organic lunch at Gathering Together Farm in Corvallis or watch a cider-pressing demonstration at Midway Farms near Albany, both on the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail. The East Gorge Food Trail may be best known for U-pick cherries, apricots and apples, while Harry & David on the Rogue Valley Food Trail happily packages their pears and more in gift boxes for you. And don’t forget about the famed Hood River Fruit Loop, connecting two dozen produce stands, farm stores and wineries along one easy-to-follow route.
2. Wander the farmers markets
With warmer weather, more farmers markets are opening for the season across the state with endless diversity in Oregon fruit. Find one near you with the Oregon Farmers Markets Association directory and maps. (Keep in mind that the markets have adopted safety measures like mask requirements and designated paths.) There are more than 40 farmers markets in the Portland Region, with the largest at Portland State University on Saturdays — ranked No. 2 on a list of 101 best farmers markets in America. You could visit a different farmers market in Southern Oregon nearly every day of the week, including markets in Ashland (Tuesday and Saturday), Canyonville (Wednesday), Cave Junction (Friday), Grants Pass (Saturday), Jacksonville (Sunday), Klamath Falls (Saturday), Medford (Thursday) and Roseburg (Saturday). In Eastern Oregon, don’t miss the farmers markets in Pendleton, Baker City, La Grande and other small towns. On the Coast, nearly every town has its own farmers markets as well: Astoria, Tillamook, Toledo, Waldport, Manzanita, Lincoln City, Newport, Gold Beach, Bandon and more.
3. Sample some fruit beers
If beer is a blank canvas, local fruit is the paint for brewers. With apples, cherries, blackberries and other Oregon fruit, brewers turn out incredibly complex flavor profiles. Many have been sourcing from Oregon Fruit Products for ages, like McMenamins — credited as the first American brewery to use fruit — for their Ruby Ale made with raspberries and Bend-based Deschutes Brewery for their bourbon cask program. Others are newer, like Portland’s Culmination Brewing, serving its Sour Flower with raspberry and lime. Ecliptic Brewing uses the fresh fruit puree for their seasonal releases like their 2021 collaboration with Von Ebert Brewing, a blackberry lemon ale. With its Salty Bog cranberry gose, Silver Moon Brewing elevates Central Oregon’s reputation as a innovative beer destination. Out in Eastern Oregon, Prodigal Son Brewing in Pendleton is known for their sweet-tart huckleberry wheat and Dragon’s Gate Brewery in Milton-Freewater makes farmhouse-style ales with local raspberries, apricots and sour cherries.
4. Explore the cider scene
Oregon’s craft-cider scene has been booming in the past decade — going beyond apples and pears to incorporate notes of berries, honey, rosemary and more. The century-old heritage orchards of the Columbia River Gorge made way for inventive cideries like the Gorge White House and Fox Tail in Hood River and Runcible Cider in Mosier. With 28 ciders on tap, the Hawthorne location of Portland Cider Company is now the largest cider house in Oregon. In Bend, stop at Avid Cider Co., Red Tank Cider Company and Far Afield Cider. In the Willamette Valley, quench your thirst with Salt Creek Cider House‘s blends of homegrown heirloom apples and pears, 2Towns Ciderhouse fruit seasonals like the Two Thorns raspberry rose cider, or WildCraft Cider Works’ Pinot Barrel-Aged Cherry made with a rare cherry variety bred in the valley in the early 1800s. Bauman’s Cider Company is all about Oregon fruit, with gold-medal ciders made from the family’s heritage apple, blueberry, raspberry and marionberry orchards in Gervais.
5. Savor fruit-distilled spirits
For the harder stuff, fruit is also a key ingredient that’s opened doors to all types of drinkers. In Troutdale, stop into McMenamins Edgefield Distillery, home of the easy-drinkin’ pear brandy made from Hood River pears and Aval Pota apple pie-inspired whiskey featuring Hood River apples. In Portland, grab a tasting and tour at Clear Creek Distillery, known for their exquisite pear brandy and other fruit spirits made exclusively from Oregon’s orchards (as well as plums from Oregon Fruit Products). Wild Roots Vodka, on Portland’s Distillery Row, captures the essence of Oregon-grown raspberries and marionberries with their unique infused vodka. From field to bottle, these fruit-based spirits come at a premium and are typically made in small batches by hand according to season.
6. Try a new recipe
Once you’re equipped with local ingredients, unleash your inner chef with some Oregon-centric recipes. Oregon Fruit Products has enough recipes to keep your taste buds happy this summer and beyond — including apple-cherry pancakes in a skillet, cherry-plum compote for toast, peach bellini cocktails, blackberry-glazed salmon glaze and much more. Or maybe you fancy a quarantine-style Oregon pear and hazelnut crisp? The options are endless.
7. Save the date for a festival
While most events were postponed due to COVID-19, you can still get ready for next year’s festivities by saving the dates on your calendar (and buying tickets). Sample cider in the big city at Cider Rite of Spring in March, while dozens of fruit beers and ciders take the spotlight in the Portland Fruit Beer Festival in June. During harvest season, the Columbia River Gorge is ripe with self-guided tours and fruit-forward events culminating in the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest in October, a weekend-long celebration with food and wine vendors, games and entertainment. The Pacific Northwest’s largest food and drink celebration, Feast Portland in September, often features fruit-centric dishes from Oregon Fruit Products and the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission. Cranberries are king in Bandon on the Southern Oregon Coast, and you can discover what they’re all about during the annual Cranberry Festival in September.