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You’ll find several varieties of delicious apples, and more, in the historic gold mining town of Julian. PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIAN, CA
by Mimi Slawoff
In our California version of autumn, October is a good time to drive out to local farms and orchards to pick your own apples, pears and pumpkins, press cider and enjoy a country picnic under autumn blossoms. U-pick apple prices average $2.50 a pound. Berries cost more.
Short on time? Local farmers’ markets offer the goods, too. For a list of certified farmers markets visit farmernet.com.
Here are the cream of the crop.
Farms and Farmers’ Markets
Since 1934 when a group of farmers displayed fresh goods on a lot at Third Street and Fairfax Avenue in L.A., The Original Farmers Market (6333 W. Third St., L.A.; www.farmersmarketla.com) has grown into a full-service open-air bonanza that includes restaurants, and entertainment. The Fall Festival, this year from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 21-22, attracts families for pumpkin carving, crafts, live music, a petting zoo, a pig race and (no hands!) pie-eating contest. Merchants often dress in costume.
The City of Santa Monica oversees four farmers’ markets packed with produce, cut flowers and seasonal events. Free no-carve pumpkin decorating for kids takes place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 21 at Main Street Farmers Market in Heritage Square (2640 Main St., Santa Monica), and from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 27 at Pico Farmers Market in Virginia Avenue Park (2200 Virginia Ave., Santa Monica). On Oct. 31, stack and balance all the pumpkins you can carry to the end of the 25-foot pumpkin patch lane and they’re yours to keep for $5 total!
Find U-pick produce, a farm stand, animal center, a working farm and seasonal events at Underwood Family Farms (3370 Sunset Valley Road, Moorpark; www.underwoodfamilyfarms.com). This year’s Fall Harvest Festival features pumpkin carving tips, music, a corn maze, a hay pyramid, wagon rides and food from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 29-Oct. 31. The festival takes over a large portion of the fields, but you can still pick your own blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes and peppers. Festival admission is $12 weekends, $3 weekdays.
The historic gold mining town of Julian (www.julianca.com/orchards), one hour east of San Diego, has a bounty of orchards growing produce year-round but is best known for its fall harvest of apples and pears. Pick your own or buy from a fruit stand. While in town, browse shops housed in historic buildings, sample signature apple pies and ride down Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage. Wynola Flats Produce & Orchards (3962 Highway 78, Julian), established in the 1890s, is operated by fourth-generation farmer David Lewis, who last worked the fields at age 14 but is busy resurrecting his family’s original apple trees. His family’s fruit stand sells heirloom apples and bushels of other varieties, and he gives 90-minute historical tours of Julian ($30, www.julianhistory.com) that begin in the cemetery.
Also in Julian, find Calico Ranch (Highway 78 at Calico Ranch Road; www.calicoranch.com), a family-run apple and pear orchard that offers a big selection of U-pick from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends starting in October. More than 130 varieties of apples and several varieties of pears are grown on-site.You can dabble in apples and art at Raven Hill Orchards (1284 Julian Orchards Dr., Julian; 760-765-2431) where the Brady brothers tend 8,000 trees that produce seven varieties of apples. The Dwarf Apple trees are easy “pickins” for kids. U-pick hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Patrick Brady, a farmer and artist unleashes his artistic side in his whimsical sculpture garden (www.ravenhillsclupture.com). The Julian Mining Company (4444 Highway 78, Julian; www.julianminingcompany.com) offers a U-pick pumpkin patch, hay rides, apple pressing and candle-making for $12.95 adults, $9 kids. Also, discover gold and minerals using gold pans and sluice boxes for $8.95 adults, $6.95 kids.
Oak Glen (www.oakglen.net), about 90 minutes from L.A. (between Palm Springs and Big Bear), is home to several farms where you can pick fruit and press cider. In town Thanksgiving weekend? Check out the annual Apple Butter Festiva, where the last apples of the season are cooked into tasty apple butter. Riley’s Apple Farm in Los Rios Rancho (12261 S. Oak Glen Road, Oak Glen; www.rileysapplefarm.com) is a working historical farm that offers pioneer activities such as rope making and stacking a log cabin from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends, and on weekdays by appointment. Farmers cultivate 14 apple varieties including heirlooms, Starkey Reds, Northern Spy and Winesap. Relax under the shade of these classic apple trees.
Let’s Go columnist Mimi Slawoff and her three kids pressed some tasty cider in Oak Glen a few years back and plan to visit Julian this harvest season.
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