• Julie Balzer

Fruitful Finds- Where to pick your own in the Bay Area

Is there any pleasure more simple than gathering your own fresh berries?

In France, it's a traditional and highly anticipated practice for students to faire les vendages (harvest wine grapes) during summer break. In addition to receiving a modest payment, they are also logées-nourries-blanchies (given room and board) by the proprietor for the season. Participants report experiencing a sense of peace and calm by "returning to the earth", as well as real accomplishment once the rigorous work is complete each day. While we certainly have our share of viticulture in Northern California, there are not as many opportunities to participate in the harvest. I invite you to dabble in the next best thing- fruit picking!

My family loves to pick blackberries at Webb Ranch in Portola Valley. My tall husband snags the hard-to-reach jewels at the top of the bushes, I hang in the middle, and our girls rustle around by my knees to find the juicy gems at their own level. We make pretty quick work of it, then emerge with our baskets for weighing, with juice-stained hands (and mouths, whoops!).

Fifty-five miles east of San Francisco, a multitude of farms in Brentwood grow everything from berries and stone fruits to tomatoes and corn.

El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills may be famous for autumn apples, but don't miss the early summer cherries and late summer persimmons and figs at the American River Cherry Company. The company used to regularly ship pallets to U.S. presidents and the emperor of Japan. Pick a basketful, then have a picnic and admire the koi.

On the Santa Cruz coast, Swanton Berry Farm near Davenport makes a great stop for organic u-pick strawberries. Its farm stand also sells baked goods and small-batch preserves.

Here are some of my family's favorite summer fruit recipes:

Blackberry Pie

Blueberry-Peach Mason Jar Lid Pies

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