To everything there is a season, and a time . . . . A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. --Ecclesiastes
F rom apples and apricots to walnuts and zucchini, Southern California produces a succession of crops that ripen almost every month. And, if you prefer produce at its freshest, you can buy from independent farmers who have set up you-pick services.
Vine- or tree-ripened freshness, quality and savings are the main reasons for picking, but, according to Vance Merrill-Corum, marketing specialist with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, some people like to "re-establish contact with their forebears and their rural life style." He says families pick to can or dry particular crops (tomatoes, for example), as well as for the hands-on experience. In addition, he says, some farmers offer tours and agricultural demonstrations that help an "urbanized public learn what goes into producing a crop."
For a fruitful day in the country, the following 10 crops can be picked in the Southland. The dates are approximate and depend on weather conditions. Ladders, implements and containers are usually available, but sometimes you have to bring your own. Always call ahead for directions and to determine availability.
\f7 Apples--Riley's Log Cabin, 12201 S. Oak Glen Road, Yucaipa, (714) 797-4061. This 12-acre ranch has four varieties of apples (Red Delicious, Glen Seedling, Winesap and Rome), available from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. During bumper years, apples sell for 35 cents a pound or $12 a bushel. This year families have been limited to a one-half-peck sack for $3. Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, there's a press for making cider or apple juice. This year the crop has been picked, but already-picked apples are supplied so people may press their own jug of cider. Tours of the ranch feature antique farm implements. Also, during snow season, sleigh rides are available by appointment.
Rancho Arnaz, 9504 N. Ventura Ave. (California 33, between Downtown Ventura and Ojai), Ventura, (805) 649-2776. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. every day, September through October. This 20-acre ranch, site of the Arnaz adobe built in 1846, grows Red Delicious, Pearmain, Golden Royal and Winesap (35 cents per pound). From parking lot, a truck takes you to the fields.
Apricots--O'Leary Apricot Ranch, 6780 Wheeler Canyon Road, Santa Paula, (805) 525-6358. Open 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m. during apricot season, roughly late June through July. Royal apricots growing on this 93-acre ranch depend on good rainfall because no irrigation is used. Ladders and fruit pickers provided, but bring your own containers (25 cents a pound).
Citrus--Orcutt Ranch, 23600 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park, (818) 883-6641. Los Angeles City Department of Parks and Recreation grows oranges and grapefruit on this 23-acre site. Bring your own A-frame ladder and fruit pickers. Fruit is picked the month of July, for $1 a grocery bag, $2 a box.
U-Pick Ranch, 45-75 Aladdin St., Indio, (619) 347-2494. (From Los Angeles, exit Interstate 110 on Monroe Street, go two miles, then right on Avenue 46 to Aladdin.) December through June, this 4 1/2-acre ranch offers pink and white grapefruit (8-10 cents per pound) and lemons (20 cents per pound). Also tangerines Dec. 1-Feb. 28 and tangelos Dec. 1-Jan. 31 (20 cents per pound).
Cherries--When cherries are ripe in the month of June, folks in Cherry Valley and Beaumont in Riverside County hold a cherry festival, featuring such special events as sky-diving, arts and crafts and a horse show. For festival information, call Stella Parks, (714) 845-3628.
LaBaw's Ranch, 9465 Oak Glen Road, Cherry Valley, (714) 845-2975. Two hundred trees of (mostly) Bing cherries. Ladders, buckets, cartons and flats are provided. Crop size varies by year, starting mid-June and perhaps into July. Brochure on request.
Wohlmuth Cherry Orchard, 9578 Avenida San Timoteo, Cherry Valley, (714) 845-4088. The Wohlmuths offer tours for senior citizens and other groups by appointment and encourage evening picking during hot weather. Among the 14 varieties are Early Burlat, Tartarian, Bing, Royal Anne, Hardy Giant, Goldenrod (yellow cherries are good for pies) and Montmerency (for sour-cherry pie). Ripening usually begins by late May, with best picking the middle of June. Prices range from 65 to 85 cents per pound.
Rex's Sweet Cherries U-Pic, 40126 North 95th St., Leona Valley, Calif. 93551. (Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for flyer) Telephone (805) 270-1465. Black Tartarian, Bing, Hardy Giants and Royal Anne (excellent for making maraschino cherries), plus Lamberts are grown here on five acres and are available from June 1 through mid-July. Prices range from 50 to 75 cents per pound.
Figs--Fig Leaf Farm, Route 1, Box 33400, Paloma Lane, Sun City, (714) 679-4295. This ranch specializes in Adriatic figs, with five sub-varieties, including Brown Turkey (35 cents per pound).