1405 SW Vermont St.
Portland OR 97219
United States



Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter July 20 2014

Sarah West

When we open the stall at Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday, Carol will be with me for the 10:00 bell.

The introduction of my longtime friend Jeff Graham was reciprocated in Wednesday's USA Today, with his reflections after his visit.


We will see what happens with the great chickpea challenge. It was fun having Jeff and Ruth help at the market and the farm, and I hope I will never have to do a tweet.

Opening the A&E section of the Oregonian on Friday was a less pleasant experience. This once distinguished daily broadsheet has devolved into a flimsy, irregular tabloid. But, for crying out loud, you would think they could get the facts straight on blackberries, a fruit for which the backyard of Oregon is known. Under the title "State's lesser berries win time to shine," the entry for Chesterberry states:

"Developed in 2007, the chesterberry is a close cousin to the blackberry, but the fruit is roughly three times as large. In the marionberry family, chesters come with small seeds and a bitter taste."

Chester BlackberriesThe name of the berry is 'Chester Thornless Blackberry' not chesterberry, though we use the less formal Chester. It is capitalized because it is named after a person. Chester came out of the breeding program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, in 1968, not 2007 as asserted by the author. Sakes alive, we have been selling them at Hillsdale since the market opened in 2002. It is a blackberry, pure and simple, not a cousin. The Chester, a thornless, semi-erect, plant is from a very different breeding line than the Marion, a thorny trailing type plant. There is no familiar similarity between the two and their different ancestries are reflected in the flavor of the berries. Finally, what is this nonsense about the fruit being bitter?

For some strange reason, the primary blackberry researchers at Oregon State University hold the Chester in very low regard, and this shapes the opinions of people who have not actually tasted the berry. I have had numerous discussions with Chad Finn and Bernadine Strik about Chesters, pointing out that it is a magnificent fruit for the smaller, organic grower and perfect for out-of-hand eating, but they are unshakable in their distain for the fruit. Fair enough, we harbor a similar distain for the Marion which is great for industrial, machine harvest farms but not a fruit where the farmer plans to park the ATV and eat berries for a while and think of shoes and ships and sealing wax. I guess that is why we don't grow it. This year, we have plant more blackberry rows, Chesters of course.

Several years ago Kathleen Bauer posted a good essay about the Chester blackberry, nicely illustrated, for those who want the full and interesting history of the berry:


So this is leading up to the acknowledgement that we will have some of the first Chesters of the season tomorrow at Hillsdale. Not many, just a harbinger, first come, first served.

We will probably have some Imperial Epineuse plums as well. Very hot weather slows down the ripening of fruit, so the last couple of cooler days should help. I won't know until I finish writing this and put on my picking harness. It is going to be a good year for the plums and grapes.

We will have plenty of frikeh, some fine purslane and amaranth greens, as well as some fine examples from Frank and Karen Morton's lettuce collection. Amish Butter cornmeal and popcorn. Next week, the Chester season starts in earnest, so this is the week to pickup preserves. Real estate in the van is limited and we do not cede space to preserves when we can bring fresh fruits and vegetables.

We will see you all tomorrow,

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm
Proud Cultivators of the Chester Thornless Blackberry since 1998