Berry Season Is in Full Swing :: What to Do With All That Berry Goodness

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Berry Season 2020 is a go here in the Pacific Northwest. Arguably the most flavorful time of the year, there’s something magical about the berry deliciousness that abounds in the region (or, you know, it might be the soil composition and rain or whatever).

Since we’re just starting July, the low-down on berries is a bit of a good news/bad news situation.

The bad news: Strawberries, the shortest and earliest of seasons, are all but done for the year.

The goods news: There plenty of other glorious berries out there just waiting to be picked.

  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Marionberries
  • Cherries
  • Tayberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Other varieties that I can even think of because the berry cup runneth over

Flats of freshly picked raspberries and blueberries in pints at the farm

Where to Get Your Berries

First thing’s first: you have to get your hands on those tasty little treats. Can you grow them in your own garden? As a matter of fact, you can. You can plant your own berry starts, like me, and wait for the bountiful harvest… next year.

U-pick vs Pre-picked

In order to have fresh berries at your disposal NOW, you’ve got two main options: U-pick vs pre-picked. It’s exactly what it sounds like.

U-pick is done by, you guessed it, YOU! By heading to your local berry farm, you and the fam can gather as many delectable berries as your hearts desire. There are certainly some perks to the u-pick method including:

  • Prices are (usually) cheaper
  • It’s literally as fresh as it gets
  • You can get as large of a quantity as you’d like
  • The fam gets outside (hello Vitamin D)
  • If the kids cooperate, you can get some good pics
  • Exercise creates endorphins (and who couldn’t do with those these days?)

Alternatively, you can go the pre-picked route. The farm will pick the berries for you, and although they might cost slightly more, you’re still likely to get a good deal in comparison to the the grocery store, and with a fresher product. Not everyone likes getting out in the fields (no judgment here) and pre-picked is certainly more convenient. In addition to buying pre-picked berries at the farm, a number of farmers market vendors provide the same product brought to you.

Contributor Favorite Berry Farms

This year is (understandably) a little different than most, but there are many farms in the area still offering u-pick availability but with amended safety procedures. Please check with each farm to find information related to this year’s operation.

Here are some of our contributors’ favorite places to get their berries:

Hoffman Farms (Beaverton)

Lee Farms (Tualatin)

Smith Berry Barn (Hillsboro)

Bi-Zi Farms (Vancouver)

Columbia Farms (Sauvie Island)

Duyck’s Peachy Pig Farm (Cornelius)

The Fruit Loop (Hood River)

Young boy in a yellow shirt, gray and purple shorts, and red boots walking beside a train track carrying a carton of rasperberries with a farm and farm equipment in the background
My son looking VERY serious on our latest raspberry picking trip

Once you’ve acquired your berry bounty, this begs the question:

What can I do with all of these delicious berries? 

Fresh Berry Ideas

Eat the Berries

While it may seem obvious, eating your fresh berries just as nature provided them is perfectly acceptable. You might want to give them a quick wash and then nom away.

Preserve the Berries

Preserving fresh berries is a great way to extend the amount of time that you’re able to consume them. As long as you use proper techniques, you can have berries year-round via:

  • Jam/Preserves

There are a number of recipes out there for jams and preserves both with and without pectin. Just prepare to put in the time. This is a favorite recipe of mine for strawberry jam that uses the natural pectin found in lemon and apple.

There’s also this thing called freezer jam – it’s an alternative method that cuts down on the cooking time and doesn’t require canning.

  • Canning

Canning is a means of sterilizing and preserving food in a can Mason jar, often using heat and pressure.

  • Syrup

Fruit syrup can be used to add wonderful flavor to all kinds of foods: pancakes, ice cream, coffee, you know name it! If you make a large batch, consider combining with a preservation method (like canning) and storing in multiple smaller containers. This way, you only have to get through smaller amounts at a time.

Person's hand holding a cup with homemade yogurt and strawberry jam in front of a backdrop of green plants
Fellow contributor Lee Ann with her freezer jam and HOMEMADE yogurt

Inebriate the Berries

Looking for a adult beverage means of utilizing your berries. Fruit and alcohol go together like, well… fruit and alcohol. They’re a great combination. I mean, wine is made from fruit after all.

  • Sangria

The fruit punch for adults! A good sangria screams summertime in a glass. There are a ton of different recipes for any combination of berries you could imagine.

  • Margarita

Fellow contributor, Brandee, made this wonderful suggestion and I couldn’t agree more. For a quick berry margarita, use equal parts tequila and your fruit syrup of choice. Add a splash of lime juice, shake, throw it over the rocks, and viola! You have yourself the berry beverage every parent in quarantine deserves.

Make a Very Berry “Ice Cream”

Okay, ice cream is in quotation marks here because it’s not quite the same as if you involved a great deal of churning. What I’m saying is, this version, with cream and condensed milk, is much easier. My friend Karen even mentioned that her family just chucks the ingredients into a blender, just kind of winging it, and it still turns out fine.

Put Berries in All.Of.The.Carbs.

I’m talking muffins. I’m talking pancakes. You know I’m talking pies and cobblers and all of the desserts too. Oh, and do NOT sell me short because you know I’m not about to forget the donuts.

Bring all the Boys to the Yard

With your berry milkshakes of course. I mean, I could teach you but I’d have to charge… just kidding, here’s a recipe!

You Can Pickle That!

No, this is not another Portlandia sketch, pickled fruit is totally a thing! During my youth, my dad would rave about pickled peaches (we lived in North Carolina), so the idea of pickled cherries in Oregon is not entirely foreign (and I’m glad my friend Amber suggested them).

Frozen Berry Ideas

Now that we’ve tackled the fresh berry ideas, let’s move on to freezing. Berries are easy to freeze (i.e. put them in a freezer-safe container and then into said freezer. Done.) and keep pretty well. This equates to you getting as much as possible during peak season.

Freeze them and eat them

Again here with the obvious, I know. But frozen blueberries are still one of my favorite snacks on a hot summer day. It’s like a tiny little popsicle in every bite. Speaking of which…

Summer Berry Popsicles

Popsicles are the perfect summer treat for kiddos. By making your own, you can forego the added sugar that comes in many popsicles from the grocery store. There are numerous recipes online that you can find, some with dairy, some with a little citrus soda, but I usually stick with the classic (and easy) all fruit popsicle. As long as you have some popsicle molds and blender, you’re ready to go.

Smoothies

Berries are a great addition to just about any smoothie. They add a sweetness that can combine relatively easily with any number of fruits and veggies. They’re also pretty low in calories but high in antioxidants and a number of vitamins and minerals. If you’re looking for an easy way to get a nutritious breakfast, smoothies are a great option (and you can meal prep them too).

What are you doing with your berries this year? Do you have a go-to recipe? Share in the comments.