This Saturday we tried something new as a family - picking nectarines, blackberries, apricots and pluots at some fruit orchards in Brentwood. We have done apple picking every September at Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville for a few years now and love it, but didn't even know about all the fruit orchards in Brentwood until this summer, which is only a 35 minute drive away instead of the 1 1/2 hour trek to Watsonville. And wow, are we ever glad we made this discovery!
We went hoping for peaches but when we got there, we realized that there are many small family orchards all along a few roads, kind of clustered together, and each had signs out letting us know what was available there. The orchards even have maps with 60 different orchards listed along with what produce they grow and sell, where you can pick it yourself, and months each variety is available for picking. We had already found a place called "Mike's" online and went there first, only to learn we had missed their peaches but that their yellow nectarines were ripe.
It was fun picking the nectarines, which were plentiful and low enough that the girls were able to easily reach them to pick and then add to our bucket. In fact, it was almost a little TOO easy because in a few minutes we already had more nectarines that I'm afraid we are going to be able to eat! There were ladders spaced through the orchard to help you reach the nectarines higher up in the trees, but we didn't need to use them because the orchard hadn't been picked over at all yet.
Clara was thrilled to find multiple ladybugs. She doesn't have any problem with creepy crawlies and will hold ladybugs, roly polies, and worms without hesitating. She is afraid of spiders though.
After picking nectarines, we weren't ready to go home just because we had reached our limit of how much we thought we might be able to consume. 5 minutes of fruit picking is not nearly long enough and that's basically all it took for us to get a bucketful of nectarines! So we decided to drive around and see what other orchards had to offer. We ended up spotting signs for blackberries, which sounded fun to pick, and stopped at Chan's fruitstand where they had strawberries and blackberries for picking. The blackberries were AMAZING. Easily the most delicious, sweetest, juiciest blackberries I have ever tasted in my life. The girls and Paul and I ate as many as we pleased while taking our time filling our box with the plumpest, biggest blackberries we could find. At $3/lb., they aren't cheap, but oh many it is worth it for such perfect, delicious fruit that you pick right off the bush and pop straight into your mouth. And the blackberry bushes were absolutely loaded in ripe berries!
Blackberry picking was more fun than nectarine picking from an experience standpoint because it took longer and they were also easier to eat right there. And I already have ideas for how to use up the box full of blackberries we ended up with, starting with Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream that we are going to have for dessert today on top of a nectarine and blackberry crumble!
Rose ended up with purple juice stains all around her little mouth and fingers because she ate so many blackberries. Clara was pleased as anything to find "the biggest, most perfect berries" for us to eat. Paul, who doesn't normally even really care for blackberries, was raving about how delicious they were. And I got twice the enjoyment because I got to practice photography and document the fun as well as eat the berries that the girls would bring to me.
You can tell by Rose's face especially how much she enjoyed this family activity! What a goofball.
After blackberries, we really were planning to head home but as we were driving we mentioned wishing we could have found some apricots to pick just as we drove past a fruitstand that had a "U-pick apricots" sign. So we pulled over at Annie's Happy Farm and spent another half an hour filling a bucket with apricots and (joy!) pluots! Clara loves, loves, loves pluots and was super thrilled about picking them and eating them right there in the orchard after I cleaned them off. They were super sweet, with green skin on the outside and bright red and orange flesh on the inside. The juice got everywhere but it was totally worth it. The apricots and pluots were a little higher up, so they weren't as easy for Rose to pick, but she was still able to snag some of the lower hanging fruit. Clara was tall enough to not have much of a problem and was pretty good about looking for only the best apricots and pluots to collect in our bucket.
It had been overcast all morning, which was nice for fruit picking because the weather has been so warm here that if the sun had been up it would have gotten much hotter, much earlier. I'm not quite sure how we are going to get through all this fruit as I'm afraid our eyes and grabby hands were bigger than our stomachs, but we are certainly going to try. And we are planning to go back again later in July for yellow peaches! This just might be a new summer tradition.