Oregon’s Willamette Valley is considered a berry paradise by fruit buyers, with more than 50 varieties of premium, healthy and delicious berries cultivated for U.S. and global markets. Fertile, well-drained soil, favorably timed spring rains, and summers that are warm by day and cool at night give Oregon berries superior taste profiles.
Grown primarily on small family farms, Oregon’s tasty berries are sought after as high-quality ingredients in many products from sauces to desserts. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries – and even cranberries – can be found fresh and frozen.
Living around this kind of abundance, it’s no wonder that award-winning cookbook author Janie Hibler created The Berry Bible to offer recipes both savory and sweet.
Oregon is the nation’s top producer of blackberries, black raspberries, boysenberries and loganberries – and is second in the production of red raspberries. Farmers even grow a premium blackberry variety known as the Marionberry, named for the county where it was developed. These berries contain antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C and other natural properties known for their extensive health benefits such as their ability to fight cancer and age-related diseases.
Oregon berries are more than a summertime treat. Studies show that frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh. The majority of Oregon berries are frozen within hours of being harvested, locking in flavor and nutrients and making them available all year.
While farmers sell some berries directly to consumers, the majority are delivered fresh to a packer, then on to retailers or processed for use in baked goods, ice cream, yogurts, jam, juices, canned and as flavoring.
For 66 years, the Malensky family of Oregon Berry Packing (OBP) has grown and supplied many varieties of quality berries. The family focuses on freshness and the ability to trace a berry from the field to the customer’s mouth. OBP buys berries grown by 14 other farmers to help meet the demand in U.S. and Asian markets. Fresh market berries can ship to arrive the day after they are harvested.
Oregon’s berry packers, nearly as numerous as the state’s berry varieties, offer berries in many forms – fresh, frozen, IQF, poly bags, straight pack, purees, concentrates, syrups, all natural freeze-dried powders and value-added products.
Growing blueberries since 1980, Doug Krahmer firmly believes that no one can find a better blueberry than those grown in Oregon. “Obviously I’m a little bit biased, but I think they have the best taste,” he says.
Krahmer says Oregon has the ideal growing conditions for a superior blueberry. He now farms at three locations that make up Berries Northwest LLC and two of his children, Zach and Anne, work fulltime for the farm. Oregon farms are expected to harvest more than 100 million pounds of blueberries in 2014.
Another sweet treat, cranberries – which were brought to the state in the 1880s – grow in bogs located on Oregon’s southern coast.
“It’s important to take care of your farm in such a way it will be there for years and generations to come,” says Scott McKenzie, who owns Seaview Cranberries. All five of his children help plant bee-friendly vegetation, develop new bogs and harvest.
The cool summers and a long growing season mean Oregon cranberries are bright red and ripe when they are harvested in late October and November.
International and domestic markets prize Oregon cranberries for their high brix (natural sugars) content, their rich and deep color, and their large size. Chefs and bakers in Asia often ask for Oregon cranberries because of their taste and beauty. And, Oregon cranberries stand out with high antioxidant and proanthocyanidin levels – food properties that continue to interest health researchers.
With superior taste, variety and packing options, most states can’t match Oregon berries.