Bay Area Bucket List: Berry Picking in Watsonville, CA

Picking olallieberries at Gizdich Ranch is at the top of my list of favorite childhood memories. Often berry picking would be followed by a jam making session back home with my parents. There is no jam I would rather slather in toast, roll up inside a crepe or pair with peanut butter on a sandwich than my mom’s olallieberry jam. I was thrilled when my children found the same delight in berry picking that I did. It is an activity we often add to our summer bucket list each year.

Gizdich Ranch is located in Watsonville, California. It is about 20 minutes south of Santa Cruz and not far from the coast. Visit May through September for an opportunity to pick your own seasonal fruit or stop by the Pie Shop to enjoy a slice of one of their mouthwatering pies.

  • Strawberries – May 4th through August
  • Olallieberries – 6/15/19-6/30/19
  • Boysenberries – 6/22/19-7/14/19  
  • Blackberries – 7/4/19-7/14/19
  • Apples – Early to mid September

Note: Weather conditions can change the dates listed above.  Please call in advance for the most up to date information.

Prepare to get a little berry stained and dusty while out picking. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, pack a hat and wear plenty of sunscreen. The best part of picking berries is popping a few in your mouth as you walk along the rows. It took us less than an hour to collect 6 full buckets of olallieberries. It was enough to make 20 large hard of jam and still have enough berries left over to enjoy with our ice cream that night and with yogurt and granola the next morning. Just over 7 pounds of berries cost about $25.00.

After picking berries, we went back to my parents house to prepare jam. We always refer to the recipe on the back of the box of pectin. Since olallieberry jam is not very common, we follow the recipe for blackberry jam.

Jam isn’t difficult to make, but it does take some time to wash, smash, boil, and jar. The only ingredients and supplies you need are berries, sugar, pectin, a large pot and glass jars with metal bands and lids. A funnel and jar lifter are helpful, but not necessary. Here is a starter kit that you can purchase if making jam for the first time.

It’s a little late in the season, but if you live near the central coast of California I would highly recommend adding berry picking to next year’s summer to-do list. However, apple picking season is right around the corner and visiting Gizdich Ranch would be a great way to kick off fall.

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