Pack your bucket for a day of sticky fingers and faces.
By Darya Mead
One blisteringly sunny Saturday in early June, my cousin, her three-year-old twins, and I headed east for an annual family tradition: Picking stone fruit in Brentwood.
Throughout the year, there are “u-pick” fruit opportunities within just a two- to three-hour drive from the Bay Area. Each farm offers different varieties of fruit and ambiance. And timing is everything—just a week can make the difference between bounty and bust.
Our first stop this year was Farmer’s Daughter Produce to pick peaches and nectarines. We borrowed some buckets, loaded a wagon, and headed down one of the lanes. At first, we only saw small, shriveled nectarines clinging to the tree. I was crestfallen, thinking we’d missed the best of the harvest. Then, after limping through the lumpy lanes, a few rows to the left, the sky parted and angels sang.
Peaches! Firm, plump, pink, yellow, and orange orbs had waited patiently for our arrival. We filled a bucket and a half, relishing the experience. Even though u-pick isn’t cheaper than a farmer’s market—our haul was more than $50—we agreed it was worth it for the experience.
Later, we hit Vornhagen Farm. The twins loved picking cherries here, because cherries hang lower on the trees than peaches and nectarines. After a picnic in the orchard, we took our stained fingers and full bellies for a swim at Cull Canyon in Castro Valley on the way back to San Francisco.
A perfect day pickin’ day in the East Bay!
A farm for every season
Brentwood Stonefruit About an hour east of San Francisco, this northernmost San Joaquin Valley spot is famous for its many farms growing stone fruit: cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots abound. Best in May and June.
Patterson Apricots South of Brentwood, Patterson is now California’s home for heirloom apricots. If you’ve got a soft spot for these short-season beauties, check for a list of where you will find the best NorCal farms still growing them.
Stockton Blueberries The Delta breezes make berry-farming great in early summer just a couple of hours east of San Francisco.
Santa Cruz Strawberries Summer drives should always include stops in Davenport for some u-pick berries at Swanton Berry Farm.
Summer Apples in Sebastopol Head to the North Bay for the best early season apple, the Gravenstein. Pick Gravs and more apple varieties at Apple a Day Ranch.
Autumn Apples in the Sierra Foothills About a half-hour east of Sacramento, the Apple Hill folks market more than 50 farms, offering u-pick lovelies and all manner of foodie-tourist attractions year-round.
October Pomegranates California’s newest orchard crop is now pumping out happiness in autumn. While most pomegranates are grown farther south, NorCal families can pick theirs at Blue Ridge Pomegranates in Winters.Winter Mandarins In Placer County The sweetest, smallest oranges are there for the pickin’ at some of the Mountain Mandarin farms about a half-hour northeast of Sacramento in the Loomis-Auburn area.
Darya Mead – June 2019
Growing up in NYC and attending the UN International School gave Darya a head start as a global citizen. But her extensive travel and media experience now takes a back seat to raising two boys in San Francisco. Darya loves the outdoors, cooking, teaching yoga and the fact that her boys have taught her to be a sports fan. Follow her travels on Triporati.
© ROAM Family Travel 2020 – All rights reserved
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