Category Archives: berry picking

a new discovery in olallieberries!

So last week, I posted about our day trip to Pescadero a few weekends ago to go berry picking. We went to Phipps Farm, where I’ve been going to pick olallieberries  since I was young. I spent many of my summers in France visiting friends and family when I was growing up, but every summer that we were here in June or July, we would go pick olallieberries and make jam. It’s not surprising that my mom took my to Phipps Farm, because it’s very kid-friendly. They have a farm with chickens, pigs, ducks and plenty of other animals to entertain the little ones. The country store is inviting, and sells fresh produce, dried beans, and other local items. There are picnic tables outside the store with rusted old tractors, play houses and gigantic tires for kids to play on. The entrance fee doesn’t apply to young children. It’s all very inviting for a family.

In light of all these great things, it might be surprising that I decided to go check out a different U-Pick olallieberry farm in Pescadero last weekend. After our last visit, I decided to do some research to see if there were any other options for picking olallieberries, since $3.00 per pound plus entrance fee seemed kind of steep to me. I found a website for Swanton Berry Farm, that advertised olallieberry-picking for $2.50 per pound. Not only is this cheaper than Phipps, but the berries are organic (Phipps berries are not sprayed with pesticides, but not advertised as organic). Since we had some friends coming into town who wanted to join us for another berry picking trip, this was the perfect opportunity to check out the new place!

The Swanton Berry Farm location for picking olallieberries is at Coast Ways Ranch, which is about 10 miles past Pescadero on Hwy 1, right at Ano Nuevo. There’s a sign just before the turnoff that points you in the right direction. When we arrived, we had a picnic on one of the tables near the berry fields, and got right to harvesting! At first, the berry bushes seemed a lot less full than the ones at Phipps, which I attributed to them being organic. I was a little worried that there would be less to pick, but was happily surprised by the overwhelming amount of beautiful, dark, juicy berries all throughout the rows of bushes. We tasted a few along the way, and they were absolutely delicious. Now, this may come as a surprise given the amount of berry-talk these last few posts, but I’m actually not much of a berry person. I love them in jams, crumbles and pies, but I’m not usually a huge fan of fresh ones, since they can be a bit tart. These were definitely an exception, and I’ve been snacking on them ever since Saturday. Another happy discovery we had after picking berries was that, if you pick more than 10 pounds of berries, they are $2.00 per pound instead of $2.50. Last week at Phipps, we picked 14 pounds of berries, for which we paid $42.00+ $6.00 for entrance. We would have saved $20.00 had we gotten that amount of berries at Swanton.

Anyway…I’m not saying that Phipps isn’t great. I bought some wonderful dried beans there in addition to the berries, cooked them up, and have been enjoying them all week. I love that they have local sources of beans and lots of kinds of flour. If you have kids, Phipps is a great place to take them. But, I’m very happy with my new find! Oh, and in the winter, Swanton has U-Pick kiwis! I think I see kiwi jam in our future…

A fun day of berry picking = a whole lot of jam

Last Saturday, my husband and I set out for a fun day of berry picking! We packed up a picnic, drove over to Pescadero, and went to Phipps Country Store & Farm where you can pick your own olallieberries. I was excited, but a little bit worried that it would be slim pickings. When we went last year, we ended up with only a few pounds of berries. The annoying part about this is that they charge you an entrance fee of $3.00 per person on top of the $3.00 per pound of berries, so it’s only worth it if you go to get lots of them. Of course, it’s still lots of fun, no matter how many berries you end up with, but my main purpose in going is to get enough berries to freeze for winter berry pies, and to make jam with to give away as Christmas presents or thank you gifts. Well this year, we got a fun day AND lots of berries. The olallieberry bushes were heavy with sweet, plump berries. So much so, that we only got through one row of berries before we had too many buckets to carry. We ended up with 14 pounds of ollalieberries! In addition to olallieberries, Phipps also sells a wide array of dried beans. Most of them are locally grown, and many are heirloom varieties. So I couldn’t help myself…I picked up five different kinds of beans. Two of them were particularly interesting-looking: Spanish Tolosanas and Anasazi.

After picking and paying for our loot, we sat down for a late lunch on one of the picnic tables outside the country store. The picnic was fabulous, and consisted of a fresh tomato, avocado, and homemade goat cheese salad, homemade bread, salami and cheese, strawberries, and beer. Lunch hit the spot. Here is a picture of it:

So after lunch, we headed home, but first stopped at my parents’ house to drop off some berries for them. My mom wanted to come berry picking too, but was too busy getting ready for an upcoming trip, and  asked me to pick up some berries for her. When we arrived at my parents’ place, it turned out that my dad had just finished picking a huge bag of plums from their front yard. The plum tree stands just above the driveway, so when they ripen, they inevitably end up all over the car and need to be cleaned up. Since they were leaving for a little while, my mom was set on getting as many of those plums out of the tree to avoid having them end up on her car. So of course, we ended up with over half of the plums (about 8 pounds of them). On top of that, we had just gotten 4 pounds of plums (of a different variety) from a family friend. So let’s review: After giving my parents 3 pounds of berries, we ended up with 11 pounds of olallieberries, 8 pounds of yellow plums, and 4 pounds of red plums, equaling 23 pounds of fruit. Oh dear.

There’s really only one thing you can do with that much fruit: make jam. So the next morning, we got up bright and early, and set out to preserve all of these delicious summer fruits. I’ve watched my mom make jam every summer of my life, and pretty much learned how to do it from her. She doesn’t always use pectin, but I decided to use it this year, just to have peace of mind that this fruit would not go to waste. I pretty much followed the instructions from the pectin box. However, I did reduce the amount of sugar in both the plum jams by about a cup each, even though the instructions strongly discouraged that. I had no issues though- all of the jams set beautifully. This was my husband’s first time helping out with the jam-making process, and he was great! That much fruit made this a 2-person job, so it was wonderful to have some help! After 5 hours of work, we now have 35 jars of jam to eat or give away to family and friends. It may seem like a lot of work, but berry picking and jam-making is one of those summer traditions that I love.

Here is the end product: