COQUILLE — Blueberry season has begun, and Coos County U-pick farms are flooded with locals and tourists seeking out the sweet treasures straight from the bush.
Hazen’s Riverside Blueberry Farm in Coquille opened up its farm last Thursday, and has seen a constant flow of visitors coming to berry pick.
Valerie Caskey gets down on the ground to find the best blueberries at Hazen’s Riverside Blueberry Farm in Coquille.
“I think this is our 16th season,” blueberry farm owner Wally Hazen said. “We originally bought the property as horse property and the berries were all extra, but we’ve been working with it to develop a pretty good U-pick system.”
Blueberry season usually lasts anywhere between three-to-five weeks each summer. According to Hazen, his plants are producing a very high yield of blueberries this year, and he believes that the season could last as long as six weeks.
“I do think this season will last a little longer, it could go five to six. What may change that is if the weather turns warm. When the weather gets warmer it causes the berries to ripen really quickly," Hazen said.
Many people find the berry picking to be fun and even therapeutic. Some even have different methods of picking to ensure they find the type of berries that they like to eat, whether that small tart berries or plump sweet berries.
“I look for the nice big, fat juicy blueberries,” Lori Shanks said.
One woman, Valerie Caskey, who was out picking said she likes to roll the berries gently in her hands and if they easily come off the branch she knows they are ready.
Blueberry season started at Hazen’s Riverside Blueberry Farm in Coquille last Thursday, and is expected to continue for the next month or so.
“If you just roll them in your hand and they come off easily then they’re ready to go. I could be making that up. Every bush has a different flavor so I taste all of them and find a bush with a flavor I like,” Caskey said.
Hazen says the best way to eat the berries is in a handful of about four or five at a time, so that you can really get all the flavor of the berries.
“A lot of people eat them one at a time, but you really need to eat about four or five at once to get that blend of the tart and sweet,” Hazen said.
All of Hazen’s blueberries are distributed locally in the Coos County area. He even provides the Coos Bay School District with fresh blueberries for its lunch program.
“The kids are getting local, fresh, blueberries. We have wholesale places out going into Coquille and to day-ship into Coos Bay. Sixteen years ago we were hauling a lot of our berries up to Salem to the processor. It was just a lot of work, so we’ve since developed a pretty good U-pick program. I sell everything in this area now. Nothing goes to Roseburg or Salem anymore,” Hazen said.