Jul 07

Free Fruit, Four Ways

by Hannah Holt »


Summer is blooming here in the northern hemisphere, and Oregon’s berry season is peaking. The strawberries may be gone, but thimble berries, raspberries, Marion berries, blueberries, and cherries are on. Give it a few more weeks and blackberries will make their annual appearance. This is hands down my favorite time of year!

Here are four ways to score fresh fruit without breaking the bank.

1. Go wild. You don’t need to leave civilization to find wild berries. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Within one mile of my suburban Portland home, I’ve found three varieties of wild berries. When we lived in downtown Salt Lake City, a mulberry tree grew in front of our apartment building. Now the tree wasn’t wild per se, but our apartment manager regarded it as a trash tree. She hated the inky bombs it dropped every summer, and she was more than happy to let us unburden its branches. (By the way, mulberry pie is delicious!) Tip: Never eat any berry you can’t clearly identify, and know the local picking laws before you gather. Here’s a list of edible wild berries in the Pacific Northwest.

2. Be neighborly. In Colorado, we lived near an ageing widow with three apple trees. Every year, we harvested the trees for her, and in return she let us have all the apples we could carry. I had enough apples to make applesauce for the entire year. In so many ways, it pays to be neighborly.

3. Look for vacancies. Sometimes vacant houses have fruit trees. It doesn’t hurt to call the Realtor and ask if you can pick from the trees. The worst they can say is, no. We called one agent, whose owner didn’t even know the property had a cherry tree. As a thanks for letting him know about the tree, he let us pick all the cherries we wanted. Note: never glean on someone’s property without asking permission!

4. Grow your own! Planting fruit trees and vines is a long term investment. However, the pay off is worth it. Even if your yard consists of a lone balcony, some miniature fruit trees and bushes may flourish. We have two fruit trees and a grape vine in our backyard. This year, we’ll do more sharing than gleaning.

Happy hunting! There’s nothing like eating freshly canned fruits and jams. Here’s my son watching the peach bath one year. Silly kid. Doesn’t he know a watched pot never boils?

Reading recommendations for young berry pickers:

  1. Susanna Leonard Hill

    I love that picture of your son watching the peach bath – kids are so optimistic, aren’t they? He’s just sure those peaches are going to be ready any second :) Our hill isn’t called Blueberry Hill for nothing – the blueberries are out now, small and sweet and so pretty hiding among the green!

    • Hannah Holt

      A hill of blueberries? Now that’s a pleasing mental picture! Enjoy the blueberries! We have a few buckets in our fridge right now from our visit to a U-pick farm two days ago. YUM!

  2. Joanna

    CUTE photo!

    I have just finished writing a chapter book based in the pacific NW and there is a whole chapter about salmonberries (which I had to research). I too LOVE berry season. Four super berry picking suggestions!

    • Hannah Holt

      I would love to read your chapter! I’ve had salmonberries. They used to grow like wild (pun intended) around the girls camp I attended. I can’t say they are my favorite, but they make a nice snack during hiking.

  3. Heather Newman

    I love the suggestions here! I would not have thought of calling up a realtor to ask about picking on a vacant property. We have apple trees, raspberry and blueberry bushes (the blueberry bushes were a pleasant surprise this spring) and Ben wants to plant several fruit trees over by the garden. Enjoy your berry season!

    • Hannah Holt

      I hope you enjoy berry season as well. Sounds like you have some great pickings without leaving your yard.

  4. Erik -This Kid Reviews Books

    Great post! I like blackberries and raspberries!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thanks, Erik. I hope you get to enjoy some of both this summer.