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Life in Oregon is Berry, Berry Good in August and September

August 31, 2009
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It’s that time of year in Oregon when marionberries and blackberries appear in great abundance. Wild blackberries are virtually everywhere in the Willamette Valley, even growing along the median of Interstate 5.

I can literally walk out my front door and return with enough berries to make a pie or cobbler in a very short period of time by scavenging along the local streets.

Throughout the state where fruit is grown it’s not difficult to find orchards and farms that let you pick your own fruit at considerable savings over the supermarket or farmer’s markets. This is wonderful for those who like to can and make jellies, jams and desserts for the freezer.

One of my favorite places for the “free wild” variety is at Minto-Brown Island Park, an 898.9 acre wildlife reserve close to the heart of Salem on the Willamette River. This beautiful gem of a park has something for everyone.

About 20 miles of meandering paved and unpaved paths are there for walkers, runners and bikers as well as acreage for off-leash dog exercise. You can even find and pick berries there if your pooch is patient.

Minto-Brown Island Park is also a wildlife refuge so there lots of activity to be seen here around the boggy sloughs (slews.)

Park Visitors

Park Visitors

A few things to remember when gathering wild blackberries. Your fingers will become stained and most likely you will bleed a bit. Even when I’m careful, I’ve never escaped without scratches from the sharp thorns. Wear old clothing and bring along sealable containers to keep the juice from staining your car interior. Notice in the photo below that the berries ripen individually over time. You should expect to share this park’s bounty with others including birds.

Wild Blackberries

Wild Blackberries

If you don’t live near berry patches, look in the freezer section of your local market. Berries freeze very well. If you’re freezing your own, just spread the washed and air-dried berries out on a large sheet pan on parchment paper and freeze uncovered before storing in sealable bags. (Remove as much air as possible.)

Warm Marionberry or Balckberry Cobbler – Adapted from David Lebovitz’ Berry Cobbler and Cooks Illustrated’ Batter Fruit Cobbler

Fresh from the oven Berry Cobbler

Fresh from the oven Berry Cobbler

I like the additional flavors of David’s cobbler and the simple method of the latter. You can have the ingredients ready to go and mix together at the last minute just before you are sit down for your dinner.  This will be cooked in about 40-50 minutes and warm enough to pair with ice cream after you clear the table.

Warm Cobbler with Tillamook Vanilla Ice Cream

Warm Cobbler with Tillamook Vanilla Ice Cream

  1. 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. ¾ cup all-purpose flour*
  3. ¾ cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar (I use turbinado for the extra tablespoon for the top.)
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. ¼ teaspoon salt
  6. ¾ cup milk or buttermilk
  7. 2 cups berries (not sweetened or thickened)
  8. A splash of kirsch or lemon juice (optional)**

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350° F. Put butter in 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan or baking dish and set in oven for butter to melt.

Whisk flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add milk and kirsch if using; whisk until just incorporated into dry ingredients.

When butter has melted, remove pan from oven. Pour batter into pan, without stirring it into butter, then arrange fruit over batter.

Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake until batter browns, about 40 – 50 minutes.

* When cooking for my friends who are gluten intolerant, I have had success with this gluted-free flour mix from Land O Lakes Butter.

** Clear Creek Distillery in Portland makes an excellent and highly-acclaimed Kirschwasser (Cherry Brandy)

I must admit that I used Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liquor for my “splash” and the result was spectacular. Even without the adult splash, this cobbler will please you immensely.


— Charles Price

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jacquie permalink
    August 31, 2009 4:53 am

    Great article, you’ve inspired me to plan a blackberry picking trip tomorrow!

  2. Ginny Renaud permalink
    August 31, 2009 3:09 pm

    Charles, I’m wondering about you….did this all come to you really at 3:30 a.m. It all has my saliva glands working overtime. You’ve inspired me to go pick and to walk. ginny

    • charlesprice permalink*
      September 1, 2009 1:04 am

      Then go walk and pick then make something delicious!

  3. SteveM permalink
    September 1, 2009 12:41 pm

    Just discovered the vacant lot next to us with the overgrown weeds has an abundance of Blackberry Vines growing along our fence … what a treat!

  4. September 2, 2009 1:53 am

    Charles-yum!! I love berries, and now I am craving cobbler. My husband is slaving away on grilling dinner at the moment and cobbler is the only thing on my mind-LOL

    • charlesprice permalink*
      September 2, 2009 4:03 pm

      This recipe is so easy.

  5. Doug Vivier permalink
    October 13, 2009 12:30 pm

    Charlie’s huckleberry pie was absolutely perfect, actually I ate in three different sittings. It was the first $50 pie I have ever had the pleasure of. Looking forward to the next treat.


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