After the winter months, the arrival of spring with its abundance of strawberries is a sweet entrance to the changing season—and the beginning of fresh fruit pie baking season. Next up are the cherries, appearing in mid-June and sticking around for a month or so of deliciousness. By August, the stone fruit season has arrived, and peaches are a-plenty. Which will you bake into a pie this summer? All three, of course.
Is there anything better than the sharp sweetness of the first spring strawberry? Oregon is the #4 growing region for strawberries in the United States, with only California, Florida and North Carolina producing a larger crop each year. The delicate fruit was made for the Willamette Valley, which offers the perfect combination of fertile alluvial soil and pristine mountain water. Many Oregon strawberries have been grown on family farms for generations. These delicious berries first appear in mid-May, last through July, and come in several varietals. All you need to know is every one is delicious—especially in a pie.
Peaches are native to China, which remains the top producer today. But Oregon does a fine job of growing this tasty fruit too. Come August, head to your favorite farm stand and grab a bushel of this fruit with perfect velvety fuzz-covered skin, bright yellowy orange flesh, and juicy flavor. Peach trees typically take about three years to begin producing fruit, and some of the farms in the Willamette Valley planted orchards in the 1970s or earlier. The best peach-producing trees, however, are under twenty years old, and farmers often replant orchards with fresh trees to keep fruit production at its best. Five types of peaches are commonly found in the Willamette Valley: veteran peaches, red haven peaches, blazing star peaches, star fire peaches and vivid peaches. Red havens are a great choice for baking. Slice, bake, eat, yum.
The unassuming tart cherry has been around since the beginning of time, traveling to Oregon via circumnavigation of the globe. From its beginnings in Asia, the cherry made its way to Europe and was brought to the New World in the 1600s, working across the U.S. slowly but surely to the West Coast. Tart cherries like mild, dry climates, and the Willamette Valley’s favorable weather does just fine. The reasonably short harvest season, from mid-June to mid-July, is your chance to jump on the cherry wagon and get them while they are fresh and sweet. Cherries just might make the prettiest pies, with the rich dark red color calling out for a bite.