Life in Oregon Is Berry, Berry Good in August and September 31 August 2009
Fruit Outdoors

Life in Oregon Is Berry, Berry Good in August and September

It’s that time of year in Oregon when marionberries and blackberries appear in abundance. Wild blackberries are everywhere in the Willamette Valley, even growing along the median of Interstate 5.

I can literally walk out my front door and return in a very short period of time with enough berries to make a pie or cobbler from scavenging along the nearby streets.

Throughout any state where fruit is grown, it’s not difficult to find orchards and farms that let you pick your own at considerable savings over the supermarket or farmers’ markets. This is wonderful for those who like to can and make jellies, jams and desserts for the freezer.

One of my favorite places for the “free wild” variety is at Minto-Brown Island Park, an 898.9-acre wildlife reserve close to the heart of Salem on the Willamette River. This beautiful gem of a park has something for everyone.

Walkers, runners and bikers can take advantage of about 20 miles of meandering paved and unpaved paths, and dogs and their owners will enjoy the acreage available for off-leash dog exercise. You can even find and pick berries if your pooch is patient.

Minto-Brown Island Park is also a wildlife refuge, and you’ll see lots of activity around the boggy sloughs (slews).

Park Visitors
Park Visitors


A few things to remember when gathering wild blackberries. Your fingers will become stained and, most likely, you will bleed a bit. Even when I’m careful, I’ve never escaped without scratches from the sharp thorns. Wear old clothing and bring along sealable containers to keep the juice from staining your car’s interior. Notice in the photo below that the berries ripen individually over time. You should expect to share the park’s bounty with others, including birds.

Wild Blackberries
Wild Blackberries


If you don’t live near berry patches, look in the freezer section of your local market. Berries freeze very well. If you’re freezing your own, just spread the washed and air-dried berries on a large sheet pan on parchment paper and freeze uncovered before storing in sealable bags. (Remove as much air as possible.)

Warm Marionberry or Blackberry Cobbler

Adapted from David Lebovitz’ Berry Cobbler and Cooks Illustrated’s Batter Fruit Cobbler

Fresh-from-the-oven Berry Cobbler
Fresh-from-the-oven Berry Cobbler


I like the additional flavors of David’s cobbler and the simple method of the latter. You can have the ingredients ready to go and mix them together just before you sit down for dinner. The cobbler will cook in about 40-50 minutes and be warm enough to pair with ice cream after you clear the table.

Warm Cobbler with Tillamook Vanilla Ice Cream
Warm Cobbler with Tillamook Vanilla Ice Cream


  1. 6 tablespoons (90 ml.) unsalted butter
  2. ¾ cup (180 ml.) all-purpose flour*
  3. ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (195 ml. total) sugar (I use turbinado for the extra tablespoon (15 ml.))
  4. 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) baking powder
  5. ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml.) salt
  6. ¾ cup (180 ml.) milk or buttermilk
  7. 2 cups (480 ml.) berries (not sweetened or thickened)
  8. A splash of kirsch or lemon juice (optional)**

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350° F (177° C). Put butter in 8-inch (20.5 cm.) square or 9-inch (23 cm.) round pan or baking dish and set in oven for butter to melt.

Whisk flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add milk and kirsch if using; whisk until just incorporated into dry ingredients.

When butter has melted, remove pan from oven. Pour batter into pan without stirring it into butter, then arrange fruit over batter.

Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until batter browns, about 40-50 minutes.

Serve with a scoop of ice cream.

* When cooking for my friends who are gluten-intolerant, I have had success with this gluted-free flour mix from Land O’Lakes Butter.

** Clear Creek Distillery in Portland makes an excellent and highly-acclaimed Kirschwasser (Cherry Brandy)

I must admit that I used Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liquor for my “splash,” and the result was spectacular. Even without the adult splash, this cobbler will please you immensely.


— Charles

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

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