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Bumper Crop Fills the Local Markets

June 18, 1992|KITTY MORSE | Kitty Morse is a writer and cookbook author living in Vista.

If berries are your cup of tea, then it's time for you to take advantage of this year's bountiful harvest of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, olallieberries and boysenberries.

Muriel Jackson of Vista can hardly keep up with the abundant pickings from the blackberry vines in her sprawling back yard. The berries are so plentiful this year that Jackson spends a good portion of the day preceding the Vista Farmer's Market atop a ladder or under an arbor of brambly bushes of olallieberries, which are a cross between a Youngberry and a Loganberry developed in Oregon.

Jackson's berries thrive in the reflected heat of an oversized boulder, which serves as their support. All around long, spiny branches laden with fruit cling to the rock like leafy tentacles. The judicious location, along with drip irrigation, is yielding a bumper crop, according to Jackson.

"You can judge by the texture whether they're ripe. You can also judge ripe berries by their color. When they're really pretty, you know they're not quite ripe," she said, singling out a berry as black as coal, lacking in sheen.

To avoid unwelcome scratches, she slides her hand carefully among the branches, cutting off each berry with a pair of scissors. She also prunes back every limb that has yielded its supply of fruit. In no time, the coffee can she is holding is filled with berries oozing with juice.

Doug Wellburn of Wellburn Organic Farm in De Luz Canyon wanted to try something different to complement the exotic melons he usually plants. This year, he is picking berries by the bushel from his first planting.

Wellburn has enough to supply two local farmer's markets as well as send a good amount to Santa Monica.

Both Jackson and Wellburn will consider you-pick customers by appointment.

An abundance of boysenberries is again expected by Laney Villalobos, owner of the Big Orange fruit stand in Pauma Valley. Her boysenberry sundaes have become a fixture at various festivals in the area.

"We're expecting a bumper crop this year," said Laney, who expects the season to last until July 4th. During that time, the Villaloboses and a crew of helpers pick the ogranically-grown boysenberries daily, and will also supply large quantities upon request.

Vista residents driving by Damacio Gurrola's hillside berry plantings look forward each spring to being able to purchase the berries right from the source, or from the busy Gurrola Produce Stand just off busy Buena Creek Road in Vista. At the stand, the fat, juicy berries are available by the basket or by the flat.

Robert Torres' raspberries attract customers to his Chestnut Produce Stand in Carlsbad like bees to honey. He and his family grow rows of the Oregon Sweet raspberries in neat rows behind the stand. Sometimes, Torres' parents, who work at the stand daily, allow regular customers to pick their own berries off the vines.

"Some customers really like walking in the garden, getting right into the dirt," said Torres, "but that's quite time-consuming."

Since his crop this year comes from new raspberry plants, the harvest isn't as large as in previous years. Torres expects the yield to increase in coming weeks.

Along with a new crop of raspberries, look for the last of the freshly-picked local strawberries at the Chestnut stand.

Muriel Jackson, blackberries and boysenberries. U-pick customers can contact her at the Saturday morning Vista Farmer. $1 to $1.25 a pint basket.

The Big Orange Fruitstand, 17166 Highway 76, Pauma Valley, CA 92061. 742-1471. About $1.50 for an 8-ounce basket.

Gurrola's Produce Stand, corner of Monte Vista and Buena Creek Road, Vista. 727-8841. Stand open daily 9:30 to 6 p.m; Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Blackberries, $10 a flat, or $1 a basket.

Wellburn Organic Farm, Route 6, Box 77, Fallbrook, 728-0269. Blackberries and boysenberries, $1.75 a basket, or 2 baskets for $3 at Saturday morning Vista Market, and newly opened Oceanside Market, Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Robert Torres, Chestnut Produce Stand, on Chestnut Street, half block west of Highland Avenue, Carlsbad. 729-2361. Raspberries picked daily; $2 a half pint. Strawberries, $3.50 a 3-pack through June.

Valley Heights Ranch, Ltd. 757-5914. Stand situated just east of entrance to Oceanside drive-in theatre, and west of Fireside Street. Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Strawberries, 3 baskets for $4.50.

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