around town…ollaileberry picking


Have you ever had an ollalieberry? Unless you live on the California or Oregon Coast, chances are slim you have savored this marvelous hybrid berry. My first taste taste of ollalieberries was many moons ago [20 or so years] at Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero. One slice of their world famous ollalieberry pie and I was hooked. Yummy indeed.

These berries are not something you find in the market or even at the farmer's market [at least the ones I frequent]. I just assumed all these years that Duarte's had cornered the ollalieberry production. [I did read they freeze 30,000 pounds each year to keep up with their demand for pie year round. 30,00 pounds!]

Imagine my surprise when I discovered u-pick berry farms just an hour south of San Francisco. I believe I was reading about Pescadero in Via or Sunset magazine and they listed Phipps Country Store as a picking location. After some on-line research, I opted to head a bit further south to Swanton Berry Farms. Not only could we pick our own supply of ollalieberries, but we could also pick blackberries! 

I have to admit, D was not overjoyed when I announced our Sunday activity. He just could not conceive how driving an hour down HWY 1 on a cold, cloudy and wet day could be fun. [Cold and dreary summers are the price we pay for warm Februarys.] Even the prospect of homemade ollalieberry pie was no comfort. 

By the time we arrived to the farm, the fog had cleared and sunny blue skies warmed us while we made our way down the aisle of berry vines. D came to life at when he saw row after row of berries just waiting to plucked. Seeing this city boy eating fruit  from the vines and exclaiming "this is so fun!" and "these berries are heavenly" made me so happy…and relieved.

Fortunately, ollaileberries and cultivated blackberries are not thorny, so we only suffered purple stained fingers and hauled in nine pounds of berries between the three of us. I'm sure D consumed a pound taste-testing along the way. With the fruits of our labor, I was able to make a batch of ollalieberry jam which yielded seven half-pint jars and a most delicious tart. The remaining berries, we froze for Thanksgiving pies…if we can wait that long.

IF YOU GO: Make sure to check their "hot line" to see if berries are available. Ollailiberries are done for the season, but blackberries are still waiting. It's prime time I think, so get there ASAP. Swanton also has a u-pick strawberry farm just south of the berry farm. It supposed to open with strawberries available until October.

Dress in layers. The farm is on the coast and can be quite chilly and windy. 

Pack a picnic. They have a small picnic table or bring a blanket and eat in the berry aisle. If you can bring a wagon, do it. They do supply wagons, but there aren't many. It's great to pull the kiddos around or gives the kiddos something to do.

TIP: I read to freeze berries on a baking sheet in a single layer. Once frozen, transfer to ziploc bags. This methods provides you with individual berries as opposed to a block of frozen, mushy berries.

I used this recipe for the tart, substituting the ollaileberries for the blueberries and ommiting the lemon.

Please let me know if you go and what you did with your berries! So many exciting jam recipes to try.