Season is Short and Sweet
San Francisco Chronicle, June 14, 2006
Stacy Finz, Chronicle Staff Writer
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At the peak of spring olallieberry season, Ken Hagan
estimates that he gets 2,000 people a day visiting his
Brentwood family farm, Bacchini's Fruit Tree, to pick
the fresh berries.
It's become a bit of a California tradition to go
olallie picking in June, when the tangy fruit is
ripening on the bush.
"They're very easy to pick and very tender," Hagan says.
Bakers say the berry's tart and slightly sweet flavor
make it a perfect filling for pies, cobblers, muffins
The olallieberry, a cross between a blackberry,
loganberry and youngberry, originated in 1949 in Oregon,
but mostly thrives in California -- especially on the
coast. The olallie, a Native American word meaning
blackberry, likes plenty of rain and mild temperatures.
And with this year's torrential downpour, growers are
expecting a bumper crop.
Olallies, like most other spring and summer crops, are
late this year, and just starting to show up in markets.
Hagan says that because of his inland location, his
olallieberries came in earlier than most and will only
last until late June. He suggests that pickers wear
comfortable shoes and get to the farm, located at 2010
Walnut Blvd., by 8 a.m. Bacchini's is open for picking
Friday through Sunday. For more information, check
Bacchini's Web site at brentwoodfruit.com.
Farms near the ocean, like Swanton Berry Farm-owned
Coastways Ranch on Highway 1, 30 miles south of Half
Moon Bay, don't expect berries to be ready for public
picking until sometime after next week (831-469-8804).
The coastal olallieberry season usually lasts about six
Webb Ranch Farm in Portola Valley has already begun
selling its olallies at its farm stand at 2720 Alpine
Road, off Highway 280 (www.webbranchfarm.com). Hours are
from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (650-854-3134).
The Webb family, which owns and operates the stand,
expects the olallieberry season to last until mid-July.
They are in the process of going organic and don't use
any pesticides on their berries.
When the berries are ripe, they're sweet enough to eat
straight. But Hagan's wife, Sheila, likes to whip out
the Bacchini family's favorite recipe -- a twist on
classic strawberry shortcake.
"People get tired of pies," Hagan confesses.
Sheila Bacchini-Hagan fills her homemade shortcake
biscuits with an olallieberry compote that she makes
with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, red
wine, spices and sugar. Then she tops the confections
with a generous dollop of whipped cream.
She also uses olallieberries to make a dipping sauce to
pour over savory meats, fish and poultry (see
accompanying recipes). While olallies have a distinctive
flavor, it's fine to substitute blackberries when
cooking or baking.
At San Luis Obispo's Avila Valley Barn, a U-pick farm,
produce stand and specialty shop, located at 560 Avila
Beach Drive (805-595-2810), owners are already
developing an olallieberry ice cream to sell in their
new creamery. Debbie Smith, a managing partner, says
they are also trying to create an olallieberry drink --
a combination of lemonade and olallieberry juice.
Smith says they have about 8 acres planted in olallies.
"And the crop looks absolutely beautiful," she says.
On weekends, families are transported to the berry patch
during a complimentary hay ride. There, they can harvest
as many olallieberries as they can carry in boxes and
baskets that are provided by the farm. Inside the Avila
Valley Barn store, open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, are
freshly baked olallieberry turnovers and lattice pies.
The barn also sells olallie jams, jellies, vinegar and
mixes for cobbler. Smith is a particular fan of the
olallieberry crumble, a simple, old-fashioned, buttery
comfort food that brims with juicy berries.
North of San Luis Obispo, in the coastal town of
Cambria, the owners of Linn's Fruit Bin are preparing to
freeze more than 50 tons of olallieberries from this
season's crop. They will use the berries during the next
year to make their signature desserts, which they ship
all over the country (linnsfruitbin.com).
John Linn and his wife, Renee, started farming in 1976.
Soon after they opened a farm stand and began selling
their homemade olallieberry pies. At the time, the berry
was barely known. But it soon became the "cornerstone"
of their business, says John Linn. Wife Renee began
experimenting with the berries, eventually developing
recipes for olallie muffins, cheesecakes, syrups, curd,
vinegar and chutney.
"It's become a tradition for which we've become widely
known," says John Linn. "Not bad for a berry that's
grown on only about 100 acres in the entire state."