When markets start overflowing with strawberries, summertime is on your doorstep and you can look forward to a bounty of delicious produce. Low in fat, low in calories, high in vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, and potassium, strawberries are the perfect introduction to warm months -- and an easy snack on the go for your family too. To quench your appetite for the delicious red berry until Watsonville's 16th Annual Strawberry Festival on July 31st, get in the car and drive to one of these u-pick strawberry farms. Fun guaranteed for the entire family.
With two u-pick locations between Pescadero and Davenport, local favorite Swanton Berry Farms tops the choice of Bay Area families with 20+ acres of Chandler and Seascape strawberry varietals. Choose between Coastways Ranch and the original Swanton Berry Farm.
Coastways Ranch, closer to San Francisco and right after Ano Nuevo State Reserve off Highway 1, offers picnic tables sheltered from the wind (nice given the location), portable toilets, kid wagons with handles and a basic stand where you can taste jams with graham crackers and purchase the ones you like. After you park, simply head to the stand to pick up a few cartons, grab a wagon if you need one and walk up to the fields. From there, the vistas on the coast are breathtaking and you can spend hours browsing immaculate rows of strawberries while filling your cartons. Directions here.
Eight miles south of Coastways Ranch, a couple miles before Davenport and 12 miles north of Santa Cruz, Swanton Berry Farm is easy to spot with an unmistakable yellow truck and a wooden barn adjacent to neat fields of strawberries along the coast. The farm stand inside the barn is famous for its scrumptious jams, sweet delicacies that cover the whole Bay Area berry gamut, including Strawberry Olallieberry, Strawberry Citrus, Strawberry Rhubarb (a winner), Tayberry and Loganberry as well as the classic Strawberry, Olallieberry and Blackberry. You might also fall for their shortcakes or fruit pies before or after you go pick pounds of juicy and sweet strawberries. Fair-trade coffee available. Directions here.
- Prices: $2.50/lb. of strawberries
- Organic Chandler and Seascape varietals
- No minimum purchase
- No water on spot
- Both places get sunny and windy. Dress accordingly.
- Don't forget to bring cash. Honor system at Swanton Berry Farm.
Note: For longtimers, Phipps Country Ranch in Pescadero has always been a reliable and trusted strawberry u-pick destination but exceptionally this year, Phipps does not have any strawberries to pick because of unusually heavy rains.
Further south deep down in strawberry-land, High Grounds Organic family farm in Watsonville grows strawberries and a variety of vegetables that end up in the Two Small Farms CSA boxes, a cooperation with Mariquita Farm. Three times in June, High Ground Organics opens their fields to the public for a u-pick day. The two first days were June 5th and 12th. The last June date is Saturday June 19th. To celebrate Father's Day, enjoy this unique opportunity to visit one of the up-and-coming organic farms in the Bay Area. For later dates, check back on their website. Directions here.
- Prices: $1.50/lb. of strawberries
- Organic Seascape varietals
- No minimum purchase
- Portable toilet on site with water for hand-washing. Jug of water and cups on Jeanne Byrne's (owner) table for people who get thirsty.
- Sunny. Bring hats.
- Flats of pre-picked strawberries available on u-pick day, $20/flat
- June 19, 2010 - 9am - 1 pm
If you miss the u-pick day, you can still buy a flat of strawberries directly from the farm at one of the San Francisco Folsom St. CSA pick-up sites on Friday June 18th, from 4-6 pm. You need to pre-order by e-mailing Jeanne. Bring a check or cash to the site when you come to pick up. $20 for CSA members for a nicely packed full, heavy flat; $24 for non-CSA members.
Close to High Grounds Organic, Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville is a local family favorite specialized in frozen berries, pies and apples. They also have fields of strawberries for "Pik-Yor-Sef" (yes, that's how they spell it) so go there to enjoy the sight of acres of apple trees while picking strawberries. Call (831) 722-1056 for details. Directions here.
Eastbound in Brentwood, there is also a strawberry u-pick place and it may well be the only one, lost amongst dozens of cherry fields. Chan's Strawberry and Fruit Stand is a family-owned strawberry u-pick farm with pre-picked produce for purchase at the stand.
- Prices: $1.25/lb. of strawberries; $0.25/container (pre-pay at entrance)
- Albion and Chandler varietals
- Non organic
- Minimum charge: 2 lbs./adult
- You may use your own containers but no plastic bags
- Brentwood gets sunny and hot. Dress accordingly.
After you pick boxes of strawberries, enjoy the tantalizing smell in your car and eat them your favorite way, raw, cooked or baked. Looking for easy strawberry recipes?