Oregon Fruit has been a single family-run, small batch fruit cannery since 1935. Their cannery is located in Salem, Oregon (about an hour south of Portland) and the fruit they can comes from local farms, within a 30 mile radius (with the exception of sour cherries, which they import from Michigan). Their cannery is charming, with a few modern fixtures such as a metal detector and temperature-controlled steam bath, but mostly it feels like this business hasn't changed much over the past seventy years. To watch a dark, sweet cherry go from farm to can is a pretty remarkable process, with a twist in each and every step. The sugar steams, the cans go by on conveyor belts, the cherries get shaken out and it's every bit a preservation wonder to behold.
The real beauty of the process however, can be found outdoors, in the acres of berry farms. Farmer Phil led us to the edge of a blackberry and blueberry farm to see the fruits at their peak, just before they were to be harvested. The Duke variety of blueberries were the biggest blueberry specimen I'd ever seen. My fellow tour-takers all let out a collective, "Oh my God, this is awesome!" as we first hopped out of the car and into the narrow pathways between the blueberry bushes. I hesitate to even call them "bushes," these were practically trees as tall as me and just loaded with huge, bursting fruits. The blueberries were more like grapes on a vine than individual, spindly bushes, as I've seen before.
Phil instructed me in "milking" the blueberry bush, which means cupping both hands around a bushel and gingerly scraping the blueberries into a bucket or basket. It was a lovely feeling where I could really celebrate the vibrance of the Oregon soil and perfect weather for berry-growing, not to mention eat my weight in delicious fruit!
Have you visited a berry farm? A fruit cannery? What was it like for you?
• Visit Oregon Fruit: Oregon Fruit