Did you know there are two strawberry seasons in California? We are indeed a lucky people.
The spring/summer season is the more well-known of the two, but those who know where to look also keep their eyes peeled for the autumn strawberry crop. And u-pick strawberry outings are so fun -- and a good challenge, because it is so hard to restrain yourself from eating them all before you pay for them!
As always, call the farms before you head out. Berries are fickle creatures, and sometimes their harvest seasons are very short. (The injustice!)
This Salinas Valley institution isn't strictly u-pick, but the farm stand is right there in the field, giving you the opportunity to gaze upon everything they grow. The stand also sells pies and gift-y items, and very pretty autumn bouquets. But the fall strawberries are really the thing.
Murray Family Farms
This Bakersfield operation is more of a fully-executed tourist destination than the other strawberry farms listed here. The downside: more crowded, and kitschier. The upside: they have a wider variety of fruit available, and more persimmons than you can shake a stick at, as well as a store and kid-friendly activities like jam bands. Strawberries will set you back $1.99 per pound, plus farm admission at $5.99 per person.
Underwood Family Farms
With two locations in the San Fernando Valley, this farm has a huge number of crops growing at any given time. The strawberries are perfection, and if you have the patience, you could u-pick an entire week's worth of groceries out in their fields. You absolutely must call ahead to make an appointment.
The u-pick experience at Tanaka, in Irvine, is pretty involved: you take a wagon ride around the fields, stopping along the way to taste anything that's in season. When you reach the strawberries, everyone hops off for for a berry-fueled bacchanal.
Need a cooking idea for all those strawberries? Check this out.
If you'd like to go pomegranate picking in California, click here.
If you'd like to go apple picking, click here.
For persimmon picking, click here.