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Berries can be tasty, undiscovered treasures

During the Farmers’ Market season, berries are a common find. From the fire engine red strawberries of June to the stain-inducing blackberries of August, the fertile Northwest is famous for these sweet crops. But behind the crates of the more famous berry varieties hide some undiscovered treasures that definitely deserve a try.

Dudonis Farms, located in Sherwood, sells gooseberries and red currants among more well-known berries. Gooseberries, which resemble veined green grapes, are native to Europe and alpine regions of south Asia.

Gooseberries have a unique flavor combination.

“The inside is sweet, but the skin is tart,” said farmer Phil Dudonis.

Dudonis added that gooseberries are difficult to gather, owing to their short season and prickly bushes. Gooseberries are only harvestable for three weeks of the year, starting in early July. The berries grow on bushes that are 4 feet tall and laden with thorns that are more than an inch long.

“You have to be very careful when you pick them,” Dudonis said.

In addition, farmers have to compete with deer, which love to eat the tender fruit. But the harvest is rewarding, said Dudonis, as gooseberries are excellent raw, in pies, and even in salsa.

Red currants are a much friendlier crop, growing on bushes 5 feet high in clusters of beautiful vermillion spheres. Their season runs from the beginning of July to the middle of August.

Dudonis describes currants as “tart.”

“They say it makes the best jelly,” he said. Certain restaurants also use red currants to make a steak and salmon sauce, or to add color and taste to bland food.

The red currant owes some of its prominence to nostalgia.

“Red currants are a very old-fashioned berry,” said farmer Jeannine Massey. “People will buy them for the memories.”

Both gooseberries and red currants are part of the same family and genus, and are very famous in Europe, according to Dudonis. While the gooseberry season is wrapping up, Dudonis Farms will be selling them — along with red currants — at next Saturday’s Farmers’ Market.

Dudonis Farms also sells blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries and occasionally strawberries at the downtown Hillsboro Saturday markets.

Anisha Datta is communications assistant for the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market.



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