Summer is finally here, and from now until September you can find all kinds of delicious fresh fruit available in the Pacific Northwest. One of our favorite places to find fresh, local fruit is Hood River, an area known for its orchards. This last weekend we stopped by our favorite blueberry farm, Montavon’s Berries (number 20 on the Fruit Loop), and picked some blueberries, cherries, and raspberries. They have u-pick in summer, and the berries are ginormous and so delicious. It was a cold and damp day, but true Oregonians are not deterred by a little rough weather!
Hood River is at about mile 63 on Interstate 84, east of Portland. If you’re looking for a little getaway in the summer or fall, this is a great destination. It’s perfect for a day trip from Portland, or for a week or a weekend! Hood River is windsurfer HQ, and it’s fun to go out to the Columbia and watch them flying across the waves. There’s a lovely little historic downtown with a brewery, lots of restaurants (we had a great lunch at the 6th Street Bistro), and some wine tasting spots. There are all kinds of places to stay, from the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel and other hotels to B&B’s to campgrounds like Toll Bridge County Park, which is right on the river (and one of our favorite places to camp!).
But the thing we like best about Hood River is the fruit. This is a rich farming area, the leading place for growing pears in the country, filled with other fruits of all kinds as well. There are strawberry fields, cherry orchards, apple orchards, blueberry farms, general produce spots, fields of lavender, and even an alpaca farm. There are also some vineyards and wineries. Visiting Hood River is fun for the whole family.
Thirty of the farms in the area are part of the county’s Fruit Loop. This interactive map provides information about each farm, since not all the farms’ names are explicit about what they’ve got for sale. As you drive the loop you not only get good fruit and perhaps some tasty wines, but some places also sell jams, jellies, ciders, and other treats for your tastebuds like baked goods (pie, anyone?!). The fruit is always excellent quality and the prices are also very good. Since the fruit doesn’t have to be trucked anywhere, the farmers can pass those savings on to you. In the area, you can find a detailed brochure as well at nearly every shop, restaurant, hotel, etc. You also have some incredible views. In some places along the route you can see both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
But what do we do do with all the fruit we buy, you ask? We usually buy some to eat and some to freeze. Blueberries require no effort whatsoever to freeze. Well, you do have to bag them up, but really, that’s it. Blueberries are one of the 14 “superfoods,” and and are great in oatmeal or, of course, pancakes all year. Cherries freeze nicely, but I recommend getting a cherry pitter to save you some serious time and effort! You can freeze apple pie filling for a luscious winter treat, too. And apples and pears, the fruits most readily available in the fall, last a long time if you keep them in a cool, dry place.
And not to be missed are the yummy eat right now treats like huckleberry milkshakes or (perhaps I’ve mentioned) PIE!!!! The nectarine pie at the Apple Valley Country Store is one of the best pies I’ve ever had. I could eat a whole pie there there! And they do sell whole pies, fresh out of the oven, no less (thanks for the modeling, Rhonda!). Do those look delicious or what?? My mouth is watering looking at this picture!
Have a favorite fruit stand on the Fruit Loop? Share your secret in the comments. If you’ve never checked out the Fruit Loop, it’s definitely a fun way to spend a day, and Hood River is worth some exploring, too. Get out there while the fruit is at its peak, and enjoy a yummy trip to Hood River, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!