Oregon

Where We Live: Peak season for Oregon strawberries

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- June is the height of Oregon's strawberry season and while times are changing for the fruit that has earned a worldwide reputation, they're still a big part of where we live.

"Our strawberries here, the Hood variety particularly, has a very strong, good strawberry flavor. Very sweet," said Will Unger of Unger Farms. "The Oregon strawberry is known all over the US, at least, for its flavor." 

Growing strawberries is a source of pride for the fourth-generation farmer. At his family farm in Cornelius, the strawberry harvest is in full swing.

"I feel like I'm really attached to this area, to this land, and I'm really hoping to keep my kids out here on the farm -- keep it successful, so they can grow up on the farm," Unger said. 

There was a time when Oregon strawberries were king. The state produced 100 million pounds in the 1980s -- mostly for the processed market, including ice creams and yogurts. Today, that number has plummeted to about 10 million pounds -- a 10th of what it was. 

Now, California dominates the processed market, producing more berries with a longer shelf life. But Unger says those have less flavor. 

"You're not tasting what the berry should taste like," Unger said. 

Oregon strawberry farmers didn't just concede to California. The Ungers started concentrating on the fresh market, delivering strawberries to local markets every day. 

The fresh market has proven to be a savior.

"We've got a lot of people that love the Hood strawberry, and I think we can keep it going that way," Unger said. "They want local. Local's a big thing the last decade."

New Seasons is one of the markets that gets Unger's fresh strawberries.

"It's crucial to our economy as well, and making sure our farmers, our producers, get the support they need is really, really important to New Seasons, and many Oregonians," Julie Teune with New Seasons said. 

You can find and pick your own fresh strawberries at farmers markets and U-pick farms across the state through the end of June. Unger said the flavor also holds up well if you freeze them for later. 


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