Monday, April 18, 2011
This is the time of year when we anticipate the coming bounty.
Blossom Festival returns this weekend
(details on page A1 and in the special section Panorama).
The pear, apple and cherry orchards provide the floral display, and the people provide the activities and events for this weekend's festival. Go out and enjoy what this fertile part of America has to offer.
The festival is about farms and businesses celebrating the gradual emergence of blossoms that signify growth of the fruit that is the foundation of the Hood River farm economy.
Are the orchards bursting with blossoms right now? It may not look that way.
But have patience; they will return, those expanses of petals looking like popcorn on branches.
It depends on where you go; some areas have more flowers than others.
Blossom Festival is not just about the blossoms that are here now; it is also about what is to come.
The valley is a diverse place, with varied sub-climates with differing pockets of wind, moisture and temperature levels that affect soil and trees in different ways.
Most orchardists face the challenge of managing one part of their farm, or block, in a distinctly different way than another part. Indeed, farmer Jack's Anjous might look and taste different than farmer Jill's just 5 miles away.
Add to that the diversity of the crop, and you get a sense of the dynamism in Hood River agriculture. It's true that pears are king, at 91 percent of the Hood River County tree fruit output. As Ben McCarty reports in Panorama (Reflections, page 3), Anjous rule, with Bartletts a strong second, and Bosc, Red Anjou, Comice and Stark Crimson forming far smaller portions of the Hood River County crop. Apples are 5 percent of the total, with cherries at 4 percent.
But taken as a whole, orchards produce a long list of pear and apple types; available this summer and fall are Winter Banana, Cameo, Gravenstein, Ortley and Braeburn apples, and Concorde, Taylor Gold, and Honsu pears - all lesser-known, but exquisite and, in some cases, unique to this valley.
Farmers will often raise certain varieties because of personal preference, historical significance or their market niche. (Ask Scott Webster of The Fruit Company in Pine Grove about how important is the rare, but gem-like, Forelle pear to his company's artfully presented gift baskets.)
Yes, the blossoms are returning. If you don't see many on the trees, take a closer look and see the vigor in those flower buds that are now the size and color of a baby's finger. There's energy, hope and, yes, profit, in those delicate branch tips.
The result each summer and fall is a remarkable array of fruit whose beauty, flavor and marketability help define this scenic and productive corner of the world.