Fill your pails (and tummies) at some of the best u-pick berry farms around.
Before I moved to Oregon, I thought I knew what a strawberry tasted like. Kind of watery, a mild smell — you know, not bad.
And then I had my first bite of a freshly picked Hood strawberry.
Mind. Blown. (And taste buds right along with it.)
Now, we count down the days to berry season in our household. And come November we find ourselves crying into our freezers wondering, “Where have all the blueberries gone?” (Young kids ate them every one.) But it is not for want of trying; every summer we hit the farms early and often.
All that’s to say that despite our poor berry-management skills, we have become expert pickers. We have withstood smeared faces and scratched arms. We have discovered hidden gems and tried-and-true favorites. And so, with no further ado, here is a list of some of your best bets for this berry season.
Sauvie Island Farms There’s not a lot of pomp and circumstance with this family-owned farm. Don’t expect petting zoos or food carts. But the strawberries? They are heaven on a stem. They are summer on a vine. They are … well, they are really, really good. While Sauvie Island Farms carries a few varieties of strawberries, go straight to the good stuff and get yourself as many Hoods as you can carry. (And then go back and get some more.) Depending on how warm the spring is, Hoods can be ready as early as late May, and the season is over before you know it. So watch their Facebook page like a hawk to avoid missing out.
Honorable mention: Boones Ferry Berry Farm Pick your own, or stock up on their freshly picked stash of strawberries. The well-stocked farm store also has pickles, jams, honey and other treats for you and the kids.
Hillside Blueberries Go beyond Sauvie Island at this pesticide- and chemical-free blueberry farm. Hillside Blueberries is a family-owned farm, and another no-frills operations, but it has everything you need. Friendly, tolerant farmers. (Your child’s berry-smeared face will bring smiles, not scolding.) A happy dog. A port-o-potty. And blueberries like you’ve never tasted. Plan your visit for when the Spartan berries are ripe, usually in early- to mid-July. They are the perfect balance of sweet and tart and, at nearly the size of a quarter, you can fill up your buckets (and tummies) in no time.
Honorable mention: Blue Bee Farm No pesticides, no fertilizers, no spray and family-owned. It grows six varieties of blueberries that span the season, so you can get your blueberry fix nearly any time.
Rowell Bros. You can pick up pre-picked raspberries at this family farm — but why would you? The raspberries fill the bushes, and are so big you can fill up a bucket before your kids even have a chance to complain that they are hot. The farm carries three varieties of raspberries (Cascade Delight, Willamette and Coho), from the more mild to the juicy-sweet. The staff is very knowledgeable and can tell you what berries are best for freezing, jamming, or just eating as-is.
Honorable mention: Bella Organic True to its name, the raspberries here are 100 percent certified organic (along with the rest of its produce). Come to Bella Organic to pick your own, or pick up some pre-picked raspberries at the well-appointed farm store. On weekends you can grab lunch or a snack at one of the on-site food trucks, or enjoy the fruits of your labor at one of the farm’s many picnic tables. They also have free rides to the fields and farm animals — definitely kid-approved.
Cherries: Draper Girls Country Farm It’s surprisingly difficult to find pie cherries in these parts, but Draper Girls has them, and has them aplenty. There’s also a large farm store, eating areas, a swing, goats to feed, a stunning view of Mount Hood, and other amenities that make this a farm worth visiting in its own right. They are a bit strict about tasting the fruit, so you may not want to bring your kids on an empty stomach.
Black Caps: Columbia Farms Another evasive summer treat are black caps — also known as black raspberries. While the thorns on these plants are treacherous, the sweet, not-too-seedy berry is worth every scratch. Columbia Farms has a row or two of black caps, but they go fast, so come early to secure your share.
Be sure to call before heading out to check what’s ready for picking.
Sauvie Island Farms
19818 NW Sauvie Island Rd.
Boones Ferry Berry Farm
19602 Boones Ferry Rd. NE, Hubbard
9985 NW Kaiser Rd.
Blue Bee Farm
20537 NW Sauvie Island Rd.
24100 SW Scholls Ferry Rd., Hillsboro
16205 NW Gillihan Rd.
Draper Girls Country Farm
6200 Hwy 35, Mt Hood
21024 NW Gillihan Rd.