Pomegranates may originally be from Iran, but they've really put down roots in California. (They were probably brought here in the 1700s by Spanish settlers.) They thrive in our relatively warm autumns, and Californians adored them for their beauty and health benefits.
You've probably spotted the odd tree in your neighborhood, but if you want to make sure you're getting the good stuff -- and plenty of it -- visit one of these small California farms. And I can't repeat this enough: check that they're still in season before you go!
PK Fruit Farms UPDATE: THIS FARM NO LONGER HAS POMEGRANATES. (In the summer, call ahead for u-pick peaches and nectarines.)
This small farm outside of Fresno specializes in just two items: peaches and pomegranates. Unsurprisingly, they're quite good. At PK you can buy the pomegranates already crated -- or juiced -- or you can pick your own at 50 cents per pound. Bring some containers with lids, too, as you can use their juicers. The farm is generally open for pomegranate picking throughout November, but call first. 559-287-1441
This farm is the most crunchy-granola on the list. And I mean that in the best way. The owners follow permaculture rules, so it's all a bit wild-looking, and there are animals about. You'll probably be able to pick from other crops, too. Call first for an appointment. 209-761-0081
Arya Farm Produce
Way up in Tracy, Arya enjoys a slightly longer, later pomegranate season than its southern Cali compatriots. This farm also specializes in grapes, so if there's seasonal overlap you can load up on antioxidants here. The farm recommends joining their mailing list (sign up on their site) to be kept up to date on hours and availability.
Murray Family Farms
This Bakersfield operation is more of a fully-executed tourist destination than the other pomegranate farms listed here. The downside: more crowded, and kitschier. The upside: they have a wider variety of fruit available, as well as a store and kid-friendly activities like jam bands.
Need something to make with all those pomegranates? Try Pomegranate and Pistachio Wild Rice Salad.
If you'd like to get info on apple picking in California, click here.