When I think about the summers of my childhood, I think of long days and warm nights, bicycle rides to the lake, time at my family’s cabin and fresh summer fruit, especially berries. My family’s cabin, my little piece of summer paradise, was surrounded by raspberry plants taller than my brother and I, and we feasted on the small, sweet fruits all day. Berries are a summer staple, and here at LifeSource we are delighted to be entering berry season and supplying you with the plump, juicy, organic fruits of summer. Both strawberries and blueberries make the “Dirty Dozen” list of foods that, when conventionally grown, most frequently contain pesticide residues. So if your budget only allows for some organic food, make sure berries are on that list!
Native to both Europe and North America, and a member of the rose family, Strawberries are the only fruit to have their seeds on the outside. Strawberries are in season now and are delicious on their own, on spinach salad, over cereal, or perhaps topping the Three Twins Bittersweet Chocolate ice cream (a staff favorite!). One cup of raw strawberries contains 150% the average daily value of Vitamin C and snacking on berries is a great way to stay hydrated, so eat up!
Blueberries are one of only a handful of fruits native to North America, and were an important food and medicine to many North American tribes. The Northern Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum) is the most commonly cultivated. Blueberries are high in Vitamins C, K, and manganese, and a leader in antioxidant content. Blueberries are truly an all American favorite and July is National Blueberry Month, so celebrate with a pint of organic blueberries!
The story of the blackberry in the West is a long and complicated one. The California Blackberry and Pacific Blackberry, Rubis ursinis, is native to the West Coast and was utilized by Native Americans as a food source. Sometime around 1850, Rubis lacianatus, or the Evergreen Blackberry, appeared in Oregon, probably introduced to the West Coast by English explorers. We also have the infamous Himalayan or Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus. Introduced by botanist Luther Burbank in the late 1800s as an ornamental (oops!), this variety is now considered “the most widespread and economically disruptive of all the noxious weeds in western Oregon” according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. This is the aggressive Blackberry plant you see at parks, roadsides, and maybe your own backyard! It is indeed edible and a favorite for jams and pies.
Probably Oregon’s most famous berry is the Marionberry, a local blackberry hybrid that is distributed around the world. Over 90% of all Marionberries are grown in the Willamette Valley. This earthy, rich favorite was developed in Corvallis and is a cross between the Chehalem and Olallieberry cultivars. It is, indeed, named after our own Marion County, where the fruit was tested extensively. Marionberries are rich in antioxidants and high in Vitamins C, E, A, K, fiber and manganese. They will be in season around mid-July and are wonderful alone or in a variety of deserts, fruit salads and glazes.
Another one of my cherished summer memories is huckleberry picking in the Idaho Mountains. Huckleberries are one of the few fruits that have stubbornly resisted cultivation, making them a special delicacy for berry lovers. They do not have a long season and are likely the most expensive berry you will find. Because they favor high elevations and specific growing conditions, they continue to be a wild favorite, and are worth either the high price or the tedious picking!
Summer is a time for relaxation, enjoying nature, preparing wonderful summer meals and enjoying long days and warm nights with our friends, families, pets, and of course, our favorite berries! Celebrate summer with a fruit salad, dessert, or perhaps this recipe from the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission