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Blackberry season ripe for the pickin'

by: OREGON RASPBERRY & BLACKBERRY ASSOCIATION - Blackberry season is under way, and if the weather holds, beautiful berries like this will last well into September.Despite the recent heat wave, which can rapidly kill berries, Oregon’s blackberry harvest is in full swing, and farmers expect a bright future.

Temperatures topped 100 degrees in the area Thursday, Aug. 16, and again Friday, Aug. 17. They also soared into the 100s on Saturday Aug. 4.

What that meant for blackberry farmers was sunburns. Not the kind you get on your nose, though — the kind that ruins a blackberry.

“It leaves the cells with a tannish cream color,” said Marcia Liepold, co-owner of Liepold Farms in Boring. The heat affected some of Liepold’s berries, but she explained the bushes produce more than one round of berries.

Briana Underwood, manager of the U-pick portion of Sandy Farms, said they made it through the heat just fine. Luckily, late-season berries tend to hold up well in the weather.

Right now, blackberry season is at its peak. Some varieties have already been picked, while the season for others, such as the Evergreen — a medium-size blackberry commonly used as generic blackberry product in such items as jam — are just beginning.

Overall, the season started about 10 days earlier than last year’s crop, which was the latest season on record, said Tom Peerbolt, research coordinator for the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission.

Bruce Pokarney, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said this season’s cool weather, coupled with a wet spring, set the berries back a few weeks.

“But the recent warm weather of the past few weeks has allowed the berries to catch up,” he said.

Peerbolt said two things can bring blackberry season to an early end: a heat wave or an extended period of rain. Otherwise, the berries will last until late September, or if farmers are lucky, early October, he said.

Liepold said her berries usually last until the first frost, and it looks like this year they just might: The National Weather Service isn’t predicting any major heat streaks or long stretches of rain over the next month or so.

Over at Sturm’s Berry Farm in Corbett, field boss Louis Oceadio said, “I think if we get this kind of weather, it’s going to be a good season.”

Liepold has high hopes, too.

“We’re just getting going,” she said.