Berries are the most-consumed fresh fruits in the U.S. after bananas and apples. The most popular berries are blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, and are the top berries grown in the Cascade Farmlands region. (Boysenberries, currants, gooseberries, and blackberries are also local crops.)
U-pick farms let you get the freshest berries and enjoy the recreational aspect of going into a field and plucking the harvest from the land.
Blueberries rank second only to strawberries in popularity, and are touted for their health benefits. Their high levels of antioxidants may help combat cell damage, lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease, and even improve memory.
Blueberry bushes are designated as highbush, half-high, or lowbush, based on the size of the plant. Most producers grow high-bush varieties, including our local growers, but some farmers prefer low-bush, which are also marketed as “wild” blueberries.
Blueberries, known as "bilberries" in European countries, are native to the United States, which is the world's largest producer, and Washington State grows the most blueberries by volume in the country. Hammonton, New Jersey, claims to be the "Blueberry Capital of the World,” producing 80% of New Jersey’s total blueberries - still far below the volume produced by Washington growers.
At this location, you can see 20 acres of highbush blueberries of the Chandler, Blueray, and Patriot varieties, which grow five to nine feet tall. All produce large to extra-large berries, with individual berries easily the size of a pathtag! They have a sweet flavor and ripen at slightly different rates, which spreads out the picking season.
Strawberries are among the most consumed berries in the world. Many countries grow strawberries, with the U.S. producing four times the tonnage of Turkey, the second-largest producer. The two main varieties are “everbearing” and “June-bearing.” June-bearing produce berries mainly in June (surprise) but have a larger fruit. Everbearing strawberries produce smaller fruit from late May to September.
The French began taking strawberries from the forest to their gardens in the 14th century. Charles V, France's king from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden. The first domestic garden strawberry was grown in Brittany, France, in the late 18th century. They were cherished for their medicinal properties, believed to help depression.
Raspberries are produced in many regions of the world. Russia is the largest producer of raspberries, producing nearly 100,000 tons more than the U.S. annually. Raspberries are in the same botanic family as roses, and there are several varieties, including some that are thornless. The various cultivars range in sweetness as well as color. The common raspberry is red, but there are also gold/yellow, black, and purple (also known as “blue raspberry”) varieties. Depending on the variety, the berries may ripen from May (early season) to October or November.
The cache: This cache was placed with express permission of the landowner, who created the hide location. When you arrive at the coordinates, nearby you will be looking over the fence upon the long rows of blueberry bushes. Sometimes, the crazy grapes get in the way, but between and under these trees I stay. Muggles may be everywhere, so be aware. If you try to make my home run, you may be disappointed, or you may say it is fun!
This cache was originally part of the 2016-18 Cascade Farmlands GeoRomp, a 12-cache series that showcased the agriculture, recreation, and scenery of north-central Washington, with pathtag prizes for finishers. Each cache had a different theme and highlighted a different community: Leavenworth, Plain, Peshastin, Cashmere, Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Entiat, Chelan, Manson, Orondo, Waterville, and Quincy.