Over 225,000 tons of apples, pears, and cherries are annually produced in the Mid-Columbia area. The fruit industry is the #1 economic factor in both Hood River County and Wasco County. The majority of the pears and apples are grown in Hood River and the majority of the cherries are produced in Wasco County.
Lower Valley (elevation 500 feet): 183 days
Upper Valley Parkdale (elevation 1,740 feet): 143 days
Total Land in Orchards: 15,000 / 350 Commercial Orchards (Farms)
Hood River Valley Acres in Fruit Production
*Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Forellees, Seckels
Superior growing conditions and bountiful harvests have made Hood River County the largest producer of pears in the United States. over 12,000 acres are dedicated to the production of Green and Red d'Anjou, Bartlett, Comice, Bosc, Forelle, and Seckel pears. Each variety has a distinctive character, texture and flavor.
- Bartlett pear - ripens to a bright yellow. The fruit is very sweet and juicy and perfect for fresh eating. It is also popular for canning and cooking.
- Green Anjou - sweet and juicy when ripe, it doesn't change color as it ripens.
- Red Anjou - much the same flavor and texture as green Anjous and it remains maroon when ripe.
- Bosc - a highly aromatic flavorful pear. Its dense flesh makes it ideal for baking. Bosc are green to golden brown and do not change color as they ripen.
- Comice - one of the sweetest, juiciest varieties. Often very large, it is an elegant dessert pear that's excellent served with cheese. There is almost no color change when ripe.
- Seckel - small, sweet pears that are excellent for children's snacks. They are often used for garnishes and pickling and they do not change color when ripe.
- Forelle - sweet, very juicy. They turn bright yellow with crimson freckling when ripe.
Hood River Valley Pear Production in Tons
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Hood River County provides the ideal mix of warm sunny days, crisp cool nights, and volcanic rich soil that produces crisp, sweet apples. its reputation for quality apples dates back to the 1900 Chicago World's Fair, where 16 blue ribbons were awarded to local growers. A Chicago newspaper reported that, "Since the Centennial Exposition, everybody in the world knows about Hood River apples."
While Hood River grows several apple varieties such as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fiju, Gala and Granny Smith, it is primarily known for its Newtown Pippin apples. The oldest commercially grown native variety in the United States, this heirloom apples originated in the early 1700s and was rumored to be the apple of George Washington's eye. The Newtown Pippin is bright green when harvested, mellowing to a light yellow. The flesh is crisp and creamy white and the taste is sweet with a balance of tartness.
The Newtown Pippin makes excellent sauces and pies and has been called the classic American apple.
Hood River Valley Apple Production in Tons
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There is something special about Mid-Columbia sweet cherries. They are bigger and juicer and each one virtually explodes with sweetness. Of all of summer's bounty, cherries demonstrate how this areas unique growing conditions combine to create equally unique fruit.
The average yearly yield of cherries is 29,000 tons which are carefully hand-picked at the peak of flavor. Among the most popular cherry varieties grown are:
- Bing - large, maroon in color and firm in texture
- Lambert - ripen earlier and are more tender than the Bing variety
- Van - similar to the Bing although usually smaller
- Rainier - with an intense flavor that many consider to be the sweetest of the bunch. Rainier cherries are large, heart-shaped fruit that is yellow with a bright red blush.
- Royal Anne or Queen Anne - sometimes confused with Rainiers, are primarily grown for the maraschino cherry market
- Lapin Cherry - is a late season cherry, known for its colossal size and sweet flavor
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While not currently known as a wine growing region, Hood River shows great promise. With little more than 100 acres of producing vineyards, several award-winning wines have already been bottled by local wineries.
Hood River is considered to be a cool climate viticultural area and is best known for producing high quality Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and other early season varieties. Newer vineyards are testing varieties and grape growing practices to expand the palette of local wine makers.
Hood River is part of the new Columbia Gorge Appellation. This designation helps consumers identify the exact locations where grapes are grown, based on specific soils, climate, topography and history of the area as well as aiding in recognizing the distinctive flavors from wines produced in those areas.
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