My favorite part of this time of year is the late spring berries and summer stone fruits. Unfortunately, partly due to the strange late May rain we received damaging the cherry crop causing the fruits to split, it resulted in much higher prices at the local Farmer’s Markets and Cherry Festival. At $7 per pound or $13 for the large 2 lb basket, we found that ¼ of the fruits were either, split, bruised, or already starting to mold. Disappointing when you waited all year for them.
In the past, I would plan on heading up to Brentwood to pick my own cherries - http://aroundthebayandaway.blogspot.com/2016/05/u-pick-cherries-white-peaches-loquats.html but with the busy May I had and being under the weather the first weekend in June, I figured most farms have already been picked over by the huge crowds they get nowadays. Over the years, I have picked cherries, apricots, nectarines, and peaches in Brentwood, olallieberries in Pescadero, apples in San Luis Obispo and last year strawberries in Watsonville.
But the one that seemed to be elusive is the U-pick blueberries, my dad’s favorite fruit and one of the pricier ones at the market. After 1 ½ hours hand picking them ourselves at Jessop Farms in Ripon in the Central Valley
on a warm Saturday morning, I realize it can get labor intensive hence the higher price point.
However, halfway through it, I finally got the hang of it (grab a bunch of berries, hold your bucket underneath them, rub the bunch with your fingers and the ripe ones will drop in your bucket leaving behind the unripen ones).
Fully ripe blueberries will be entirely grey blue in color while those with a tint of red can still be ripened at room temperature.
At just $3.75/lb we left only $10.50 lighter but almost 3 lbs heavier with our bag of blueberries.
Since we were already in the area and it was before 11AM, we decided to seek out Harris Orchards
for cherries just 3 miles down, recommended by my Boston transplanted nephew Alex who went the week before. Upon arrival and seeing the beautiful rainier cherries (my favorite cherries) and less than 10 cars in the lot, I just about jumped for joy right in the middle of the parking lot. So you can only imagine how I felt when I saw the U-pick price of also $3.75/lb. I felt like a kid in a candy store and considering how sweet some of the cherries were, it is nature’s candy. Being able to pick our own straight from the tree meant a better chance of avoiding those split ones and sampling one on site means finding the sweetest trees to pick from.
An hour later, we left $16.50 lighter and 4+ lbs heavier from the cherries.
Our experience this past weekend in Ripon is reminiscent of when I first discovered fruit picking in Brentwood over 20 years ago, leisurely morning of good family fun without the crowds enjoying the fruits of our labor at a great price. Thank you Jessop Farms, Harris Orchards and Ripon
for salvaging my love of summer berries.
Jessop Farms - http://www.jessopfarms.com/U_Pick.html (blueberries, strawberries, cherries, and peaches were available for U-pick. Strawberries and cherries were a bit sparse on the weekend of 6/7/19 but the blueberries were fantastic)
Harris Orchards – 18600 N Ripon Road, Ripon, CA 95366 (209) 559-3991 (cherries including rainiers in season as of 6/7/19 with apricots starting to ripen. Peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots coming this summer and persimmons in the fall)