FALL BRINGS THE FULL MONTY OF OREGON’S HARVEST.
Wild salmon and tuna dart just below the surface of rivers and the ocean. Edible mushrooms push up through the forest floor. Ripe fruit and veggies hang in orchards and fields. Grapes blush before the crush.
The choices for enjoying the harvest season are limited only by one’s time and budget. To help our readers navigate this bounty, 1859 hand-picked eight ways to celebrate the season’s riches—including harvest festivals in September and October.
BRING OUT YOUR INNER HUNTER-GATHERER and take a hike in the woods after the first fall rain. September and October are peak months for gathering wild, edible mushrooms, such as king boletes (also called porcini), golden chanterelles, matsutakes and lobster mushrooms.
Legendary picker John Getz of Florence says that when he takes grown-ups out for their first time, they act like little kids. “It’s a wonderful experience, finding these precious things.”
Finding mushrooms isn’t hard if you know the right conditions and what you’re looking for, according to Anna Moore, also of Florence. She’s been foraging wild mushrooms for about thirty years and says many are easy to spot along major hiking trails. A good place to start, she says, is the Siltcoos Lake Trail off mile marker 198 on Highway 101 south of Florence.
These edibles grow in the forests throughout Oregon, often under the canopy. Because it’s easy to get lost, Moore advises people to take a GPS and tell someone where they’re going. She and Getz both advise novice foragers to sign up for a class or to enlist the help of an experienced picker, and Moore says always cook a mushroom before eating it. Some forest districts require a free permit so check with the Forest Service before heading into the woods.
If you’re not comfortable foraging your own, buy at local farmers’ markets, specialty and natural food stores or eat at the Joel Palmer House in Dayton, which features an Oregon wild-mushroom-inspired cuisine. Chef and owner Chris Czarnecki suggests the matsutake wonton soup.
FARM DINNERS AND OTHER FARM EVENTS
2013 Harvest Celebration Dinner, September 14
Portland’s Plate & Pitchfork is partnering with Walter Scott Wines in Eola- Amity Hills to celebrate the culmination of the growing season. “It’s a really exciting and high-energy time in wineries,” says Erica Landon, sommelier and proprietor of Walter Scott. The table is set for forty, and participants learn about winemaking by “getting their hands sticky” says Landon. Dinner consists of locally sourced, organic, sustainable foods from multiple farms, prepared by an accomplished Portland chef. More information at walterscottwines.com
Farm to Fork Event Co.
sponsors dinners around the state with local farmers, wine makers, chefs and musicians. Participants can tour the farms and learn about the wineries. Fall dinners include one at Hood River Organic Farm, with Viento Wines, wild Columbia River salmon prepared by chef Ben Stenn of Celilo and music by Sol Seed (Hood River, Sept. 7). Another takes place at Dancing Roots Farm (Portland, Sept. 14) with Dominio IV Wines, Terra Farma Pork prepared by Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen and The Bent Brick. farmtoforkevents.com
Pumpkins grow all over the state, so look for pumpkin patches at your local farms Generations of Portlanders have taken their kids to nearby Sauvie Island to pick a pumpkin, buy fall produce and enjoy the bucolic setting. In existence for forty-five years, the original pumpkin patch opens its corn maze September 1 and celebrates harvest September 1-3. thepumpkinpatch.com Kruse Farms Pumpkin Patch and Hay Maze in Roseburg has it all— pumpkins for sale in the shop or farmstand, pumpkin patch or field picking, hay rides, food and refreshments, a gift shop and a bakery. Open every Saturday and Sunday in October. krusefarms.com
FARMERS’ MARKETS AND PUMPKIN PATCHES
When traffic stops for people carrying bags of kale, fresh cut flowers and flats of berries, you’ll know you’ve arrived at the weekly farmers’ market. Oregon farmers and ranchers display the fall bounty of corn, beans, heirloom tomatoes, flowers, and home-style jams and jellies. Music is often part of the experience, along with desserts, grain-fed beef, goat and wild seafood. The 2013 Guide to Oregon Farmers’ Markets (oregonfarmersmarkets.org) lists 119 places to buy local—from the Willamette Valley to Eastern and Southern Oregon. Like all outdoor activities in Oregon, weather drives the opening and closing of these markets, although some provide cover in the winter and stay open year-round.
Oregon’s fame as a craft brew haven is hopping. The state grows five percent of the world’s hops supply, second only to Washington. Nearly all the commercial growers are found in the Willamette Valley. The state’s microbreweries have put this ready supply to good use, with many artisanal beers ending up on grocery shelves across the United States. Residents and visitors, luckily, need only locate the nearest brewpub—not a difficult task in this state awash in beer suds. So tip a nice cold one at the agricultural source or join the crowd at one of many fall brewfests.
Find your hops Independence Hop and Heritage Festival, September 27-29 Originally started in the early 1930s to mark the end of the hops harvest, this festival lapsed during World War II and again between the 1950s and 2001. Since then, the historic town, once known as “the hop capitol of the world,” has revived the festival. The party starts Friday night with a ghost walk through downtown in which “living ghosts” tell their stories, weaving in historical facts. On Saturday, most of the action occurs on Main Street, where vendors sell food and wares linked to the period between 1856 and 1956 when hops were most prevalent in the area. Beer-lovers can enjoy the Rogue beer garden, compete in the home-brewing competition or try one of many Oregon breweries’ fresh-hopped beers on tap in the Fresh Harvest Hopyard tent. independencehopandheritage.com
Hood River Hops Fest, September 28 Buy tickets now for the tenth annual hops fest with forty fresh-hopped beer made specifically for the festival. Last year’s event drew 10,000 people. Music, local arts and crafts, food carts, and a kids play zone are some of the attractions. hoodriver.org/events-festivals/chamber-events/hops-fest
Fourth Annual Grants Pass Tap Walk, October 26 Taste the region’s best microbrews in twelve downtown locations. Stop for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants or pubs. Tap Walkers receive a commemorative pint beer glass. visitgrantspass.org
OKTOBERFEST FUN FOR EVERYONE
Get your oom pah pah tuned up at one of a dozen Oktoberfests. The biggest and oldest Oktoberfest is at Mt. Angel, which swells from 3,500 residents to 350,000 revelers over four days from September 12 to 15 (oktoberfest.org). There is something for everyone, says Monica Bochsler, a local berry farmer and one of 7,500 volunteers who run the four-day Bavarian-themed gathering. German bands rock the venue on Friday and Saturday nights on four stages. Music with less volume plays out at St. Mary’s Parish Church and the nearby Mt. Angel Abbey.
The kids will love the petting farm, pony rides and wiener dog races. Adults can play in golf or softball tournaments and, of course, tip a cold one in the biergarten where hefeweissbier flows from Germany’s oldest brewery, the Weihenstephan. Craft brews from the Pacific Northwest round out the garten. Wine drinkers can try a German wine made without sulfites or stick with an Oregon favorite. The food options from sausages and fondue to fish tacos and ice cream fit well with nearly any marketed diet.
In September (the month they all happen, including in Bavaria), Oktoberfest will be held in Sandy, Bend, Portland (Oaks Park, North Portland, Widmer Brothers and Der Rheinlander), Wolf Creek (off I-5 north of Grants Pass), Astoria, Joseph (Alpenfest) and Jacksonville.
WILD SALMON: EAT SALMON AND ALBACORE TUNA
The best time to eat albacore tuna is in September when the oil content is at its highest, according to Buck Boston, fish buyer for Pacific Seafood. Japanese buyers and other fish connoisseurs flock to coastal fisheries in the fall to buy Oregon albacore for overseas markets. Locals can find it at the market for grilling at home or order it at a seafood restaurant, such as Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport and Baked Alaska in Astoria.
For a thrilling experience, catch it yourself. “It’s one of the most fun fish to catch,” Boston says. “Albacore have big pectoral fins like wings, and they fly like a bird underwater. They put up a big fight.”
September is also salmon month. Reeling in your own Coho or Chinook salmon is unforgettable, but requires patience and sometimes a boat. Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River is a busy place when salmon start returning to the river, but it draws a big crowd. For the uninitiated, go with a charter or hire a guide.
Billy Davis, owner of Gale Force Guides (galeforceguides.com) in Warrenton, takes private groups on the lower Columbia River and into the Pacific Ocean toward Long Beach in September. He says the run actually starts in August but carries over into September.
Rachel Craven of Yaquina Bay Charters in Newport (yaquinabaycharters.com) says their boats will be fishing for albacore off shore in September and October. They also fish for Coho and Chinook salmon in Yaquina Bay and its nearby rivers.
Where to Find
FOURTH ANNUAL NEWPORT WILD SEAFOOD WEEKEND, SEPTEMBER 7-8
Held along the boardwalk of Newport’s historic bayfront, this event celebrates the Northwest’s wild-caught seafood industry, fishermen and families. Enjoy the cook-off, connect with fishermen and buy direct wild seafood. newportchamber.chambermaster.com
FRUIT LOOPS, NUTS AND OTHER STUFF
Pears, apples, hazelnuts and cranberries sweeten the harvest bounty. Oregon is the country’s second largest producer of pears (Washington is first), with the biggest supply coming out of the Hood River and Rogue River valleys. The Willamette Valley grows ninety-nine percent of the domestic supply of hazelnuts. Oregon cranberries, grown in the bogs along the southern Oregon Coast, rank fourth in the country.
Hood River Valley’s mild winters, sunshine and soils create the perfect incubator for apples and pears. Enjoy this top fruit-producing region on the Hood River County’s thirty-five-mile Fruit Loop. The trail winds through picturesque farm land and orchards, wineries, alpaca farms and roadside stands.
Take a self-guided tour or go with Martin’s Gorge Tours (martingorgetours.com). Martin Hecht, owner of the tour company, says a couple of his favorite spots are Apple Valley Country Store which has homemade pies and huckleberry shakes, and the Draper Girls Country Farm offering several fruit ciders.
Hood River Valley Harvest Fest, October 18-20
Held annually, this is an old-fashioned, thirty-year-old festival that draws about 20,000 participants from around the globe. The three-day event on the waterfront overlooking the Columbia River has local produce, beer and wine, entertainment, and arts and crafts.
Bandon’s 67th Annual Cranberry Festival, September 13-14 The festival is “down-home, American fun,” says Julie Miller director of the Bandon Chamber of Commerce. About 15,000 to 20,000 visitors fill the streets of this coastal town. Tart and crunchy in their untouched state, cranberries are better blended into juices, pastries, wines, jams and jellies. Activities include a parade, cranberry-eating contests, music, food, a petting zoo, a quilt show and more.
Autumn Hazelnut Harvest Watching farmers sweep up nuts in a dusty field might not be the perfect way to spend a fall day, but Mike Klein of the Oregon Hazelnut Marking Board says there are plenty of ways to incorporate this healthy nut into the autumn diet. Buy hazelnuts in their shells and roast them at home for a delicious snack or use shelled nuts in recipes.
THE WINE CRUSH
As the fourth-largest wine-producing state, Oregon has much to celebrate. And celebrate it does. Harvest brings a flurry of activity to wineries, with most opening their doors to thousands of visitors naturally drawn to the magic and romance of the crush. The first week of October is the best time to visit, according to Joe Dobbes, owner of Wine by Joe and other labels. His winery, like many others, offers programs for observing and tasting grapes and wine during the harvest while learning about winemaking.
The Oregon Wine Board says that many vineyards welcome volunteers at harvest. These include Ardiri Winery in the Chehalem Mountains of the Willamette Valley, and Sineann Winery outside of Newberg. Before you slip on your coveralls, call ahead—harvest times vary from season to season.
Some ways to enjoy this year’s crush
The Carlton Crush Harvest Festival, September 14
The signature event for this daytime street party held in the heart of Willamette Valley’s wine region is a grape stomp. Yep, attendees can experience the squish of Oregon grapes between their toes. About 1,000 people attended last year and have created a tremendous buzz for this year’s festival. carltoncrush.com
Bounty of the County: A Wine and Culinary Celebration, September 8, Sokol Blosser Winery
This gourmet feast brings twenty-three chefs, local farm produce and area wines to the evening table. Now in its third year, Susan Sokol Blosser, an Oregon wine pioneer, says the event has been drawing guests from Texas, Wisconsin and Kansas. “We want people to know that Yamhill County is a special place, where agriculture is thriving,” she says. sokolblosser.com
Upper Rogue Wine Trail Harvest Celebration, October 12
North of Medford, Agate Ridge Vineyard celebrates harvest with hay rides, grape stomp competitions and pumpkin paintings. Six other Southern Oregon wineries also offer harvest events.
Red Ridge Farms with Durant Vineyard, September 7 and October 5
Dundee Hills mainstay, Red Ridge Farms, will have two events honoring the season. The first, on September 7, is an open house to celebrate its fortieth anniversary. Paul Durant invites people to “come walk the property, starting with the vineyard founded in 1973 and ending at the olive mill.” The mill is Oregon’s first commercial mill, with three olive varietals—Spanish, Greek and Italian. The second event on October 5 is the annual harvest dinner, featuring a multicourse meal by Vitaly Paley of Paley’s Place in Portland. The meal highlights products from the farm, including the olive oil and wine. redridgefarms.com
GUILTLESS INDULGENCE: FARM-TO-FARM AND VINEYARD BIKE RIDES
If the gluttony of fall has you feeling sluggish, try a farm-to-farm bike ride, or continue the party with a vineyard tour.
The Willamette Valley Farm to Farm Century, September 14 This ride starts in Monroe at the Sharing Gardens, winds through the backcountry around Corvallis and finishes back in Monroe. Cyclists enjoy a gourmet home-cooked breakfast, rest stops at four food-producing farms and a post-ride meal handmade by Art De Cuisine Catering. farmtofarmride.com
2013 Vineyard Tour Bike Ride, Roseburg, September 21 Join the Umpquavelo Club’s vineyard tour along the scenic Umpqua River. Cyclists can choose to ride several distances between fifteen and 100 miles, passing vineyards, forests, fields and orchards. All routes begin at River Forks Park outside Roseburg. umpquavelo.org