Have you hugged an Oregon berry today?

To date, I think the best strawberry I’ve ever had was a dainty alpine variety picked from a Virginia field; as if eating the berry wasn’t enough of a sensory experience, its fragrance was so intense that a few small boxes of the fruit perfumed my entire car in minutes.

Those Virginia berries had it easy, though. Like other Pacific Northwest denizens, Oregon berries spend a lot of the summer shivering in the cold and fending off the rain—which the Oregon Strawberry Commission cleverly spins as a plus:

Unlike strawberries from other regions around the globe, Oregon strawberries hang on the vine longer, resulting in a gradual ripening process that develops the sugars more fully so they taste significantly better and have a more vibrant red color throughout.

In a study by Oregon State University’s Food Science and Technology Department, Oregon strawberries outperformed California varieties in all measures of taste and nutritional quality. Oregon berries had the highest levels of total sugars; higher marks for overall fruit quality and aroma; and higher levels of anthocyanin, a potentially powerful antioxidant.”

Now between spending tobacco money and plugging ham and peanuts, Virginia doesn’t care if you love THEIR berries.

Oregon, however…Oregon wants to win you over to their berries with low-key, subtle messaging:

Click to visit the Oregon Strawberry Commission's recipe- and tip-containing website

Putting my wistful memories of wee alpine goodness aside, there’s no denying Oregon farmers produce a quality, red-all-the-way-through berry. [This color consistency really is so much more aesthetically pleasing than the white-centered design common to California and Florida strawberries, no?]

c. The Oregon Strawberry's FACEBOOK page

With the clock ticking down on the extremely short growing season and our own berry starts looking pretty much identical to the day they were planted, Mr Vix and I hit the fields this weekend to pick glorious, antioxidant-laden strawberries…and blueberries…and raspberries:

A crappy photo since I'm wallowing in at least 2/7 deadly sins with freshly-picked Oregon berries: Hood, Puget Reliance, and Honeoye strawberries + Duke blueberries + Meeker raspberries

Enthusiasm comes easier when picking is a novelty vs a job.

While I was planning another few farm visits before the fields were plucked bare, now I’m thinking I should do more to support an industry that’s seen a shocking contraction in the last decade. Here I’ve been taking our strawberries for granted, and they’re doing more upstream swimming than the region’s salmon.

[L]ike so much of the natural Northwest, the Oregon strawberry is endangered.

The crop has plummeted from 100 million pounds in 1988 to 32 million last year, according to the Oregon Agricultural Statistics Service. Strawberry acreage harvested peaked at 18,300 in 1957, dropping to 3,000 in 2002 and just 2,300 [in 2005.]”

Suddenly I’m all SCARED BY THE SCARCITY.

Though I admit I’m still mystified by the scrambling. I mean whether they’re in a pint box or processed, berries are one of the things Oregon does best. Strawberry. Blackberry. Huckleberry. Loganberry. Marionberry. Boysenberry. Blueberry. Raspberry. BLACK Raspberry. Tayberry.

Maybe we need Christopher Guest to get behind the cause?

Given our state’s current crisis, I want to encourage non-Oregonians to support their local berry farmers. Work that ounce/prevention, folks!

Just make sure to keep Oregon’s berry-laden jams and delicious berry syrups in mind, too. Because if you’ve never tasted a pacific huckleberry, you’re REALLY missing out.

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4 Responses

  1. I KNEW there was something else I was supposed to be doing today!

    Hugging an Oregon berry….of course!

  2. THANK YOU

    I know you all are our competition, so should I FedEx you some fresh ones for comparison?

    [I will grant that you are the citrus champs. Must be something in the, oh, I don’t know…SKY?]

  3. I can’t claim to know a single thing about Oregon berries, but I suspect they face similar climate challenges to strawbs grown in England. And I can confirm that those are infinitely superior in taste to any I’ve had here in California. The uphill struggle of growing strawberries in cooler, wetter climates is no doubt part of the charm when success does occur.

  4. Struggler —

    Yes, the climates are very similar…so let me know if you want to return to your roots next winter/spring/early summer while I take over your sunny CA place and make do with the less-than-stellar strawberries for a while.

    [And the next time you’re homesick, do consider a jar/bottle of Oregon berries to help ease the pain. You won’t be sorry!]

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