The climate here is mild and damp, with a respectable growing season and wonderful
soil. Crops include:
- grass seed
- That's right. All the seed to grow those lawns has to come from somewhere, right? Well,
most of it is grown here.
- green beans
- Lots and lots of green beans. Blue Lake is the variety that most farmers grow. Almost
all plantings are now the bush variety rather than the pole variety. It used to be the
other way around, but pole beans are very labor-intensive, whereas bush beans can be
planted and picked by machine.
- Portland is famous for its micro-breweries (as well as Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co. - the
folks who bring you those great Henry Weinhard's beer commercials on television). I can't
remember what it is about Oregon hops that makes them special, but I know that most
breweries around here blend them with hops grown elsewhere.
- This isn't Iowa, but there is still a lot of corn grown around here for both animal and
- My personal favorite is Yukon Gold, a variety grown in the northern part of the valley.
- Fresh, in-season strawberries are nothing like the pale, woody California strawberries
that cost $1.99 a basket in January. In June a drive through the country smells heavenly
thanks to all of the ripe strawberries.
- Hey, need I say more? (groan)
- These are much more delicately flavored than strawberries, and they have a longer
harvest time. Try eating a bowl-full with some sweet cream poured over the top. Horrible
for your arteries (the cream, not the berries), but, man, do they taste good.
- It's hard for me to imagine growing these commercially since they are considered weeds
here, but people do it. Country drives in August are filled with the smell of ripe
blueberries growing wild by the side of the road. Don't pick the ones that grow right next
to the road, though -- too great a chance of ingesting lead and other junk. Instead, pick
from the bushes that grow on vacant lots or riversides. Go as a family or group, but wear
old clothes that you don't mind shredding and turning black with berry stains, because
someone in the group will surely start a berry fight.
- These aren't grown much elsewhere. I haven't tried them, but am told that they are
similar to gooseberries.
- The cool, moist springs and summers (and sometimes winters) here are great for cabbage.
- A shock for city slickers is to drive past a peach orchard at harvest time and see all
the branches of the peach trees propped up with 2x4's to keep them from breaking. Yes, the
fruit really does get that heavy. To properly eat a tree-ripened peach, you must
assume the PPEP (Proper Peach-Eating Position). I'll try to scan in a picture of someone
- Not too much to say about pears, except that they taste really good and seem to be grown
mostly along the banks of the Willamette River. Like apples, the really good ones come
from the Hood River Valley.
- hazelnuts (filberts)
- Almost all of the world's hazelnuts are grown in the Willamette Valley, mostly just
south and west of Portland. Hazelnuts are good, but I think they are overrated, especially
in their overuse in the so-called Northwest cuisine which seems to be redolent with salmon
- Tasty, but not very exciting....
- The best apples come from the Hood River Valley, but there are a few growers in the
Willamette Valley as well.
- George Bush (and legions of small children) hate the stuff.
- Zucchini, crookneck, acorn, scallopini, and butternut are a few of the varieties grown.
- Christmas trees
- Christmas trees for major East Coast celebrations (e.g. the White House and Rockefeller
Center) are routinely cut here in Oregon, as are a sizable portion of the rest of the
United States' trees (both Christmas and otherwise).
- nursery stock
- The scarcity of below-freezing weather makes the Willamette Valley a natural for nursery
stock. That flowering plum tree that your neighbor just planted probably came from here.
- wine grapes
- The Oregon wine industry has exploded recently and is now producing some very nice
wines. Our Congress-critter, Elizabeth Furse (D), is a local vineyard owner. I just wish
the wineries were a little less snobbish, although I did find a lovely unpretentious
winery: Honeywood Winery in Salem, makers of excellent fruit wines.
- Most of Oregon's wheat is grown east of the Cascade Mountains, but a fair bit is also
grown west of Salem.
- This is a minority crop (like wheat) grown mostly in the northwestern part of the
These crops are what I remember seeing on country drives. I know I have left some
things out, so e-mail me any additions.
Eventually I would like to include pictures of each of the crops growing, but that will
have to wait for a while.
Page created 11/15/95 by Michael Heggen.
Last updated 03/17/03 at 14:36.
© 1995 by Michael Heggen. All rights reserved.