Berries have been a long-time food staple for humans, with evidence showing that our paleolithic ancestors snacked on raspberries tens of thousands of years ago. Although not all berries originated in Oregon, the state is one of the largest berry producers in the US and is the world capital of both raspberries and blackberries. More berries are found to grow in the wild in Oregon than any other part of the world. Before settlers came to America, berries made up a sizeable portion of Native Americans’ diets, and they were the first people to consume blueberries. When immigrants came from Europe, they brought with them the strawberry, cultivated in France, and were introduced to raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, and huckleberries to name a few.
In these early days, many of these berries were smaller, harder, or more tart. It took many years of cultivation to reach what we can now buy in our grocery stores. In fact, blueberries weren’t a popular food staple until the 1900s. In 1911, the daughter of a New Jersey farmer teamed up with a USDA botanist to cross-breed various strains of blueberries to create a variety with desirable characteristics. The first successful crop of these blueberries was sold in 1916, and their popularity took off almost instantly. Today, the US is the largest berry producer, with most of the crops growing in the Northwest or Midwest regions.