California Blueberries in Spring
California blueberries are here and have been for a few weeks now. The recent warm weather has brought on a strong crop out of Southern California. Forbidden Fruit Orchards in Lompoc and Whitney Ranch in Carpinteria are both located in Santa Barbara County near the ocean, where the cool coastal climate with warm days and cool nights produces sweet berries as well as delicious pinot noirs. If the days stay warm blueberries will go well into November and can start up as early as January in the new year.
Many of you have tried Forbidden Fruit Orchard blueberries over the years and know just how delicious they are. Sandy Davis grew up on a farm in Red Bank, New Jersey and went on to graduate from Ag School in with a B.S. and M.S. in Plant Science. In 2003 she bought her first 2 acres which she named her “own piece of heaven”. Twelve years later she has 4 acres and is planning on planting more to keep up with the demand.
Whitney Ranch recently joined Earl’s family of growers. Ralph Whitney is our first grower to participate in the 1964 Olympics for water polo! Ralph and Rachel Whitney moved to California 25 years ago because his fellow water polo friend had property in Santa Barbara. They partnered with their friend and a few other investors to begin growing lemons and avocados in Carpinteria. The ranch is located about 1 mile inland from the ocean in a small valley with very few pests. They have never needed to use any pesticides which made their move to becoming certified organic that much easier. In 1999 they disbanded, took their 10 acres and begin working with a farm advisor to started experimenting with blueberry varieties. Originally they planted 5,000 blueberry bushes on 2.5 acres and now they have 10,000 bushes on 3 acres with some of the original 2001 varieties still producing.
In order to grow blueberries there must be bees. Whitney Ranch has a symbiotic relationship with the almond growers from the central San Joaquin Valley. The almond growers need a place to store their bees during the winter and the Whitney’s need the bees to pollinate their blueberries. Whitney Ranch was abuzz with so many bees that the ranch is now covered in a blanket of blossoms and fruit. The mild weather in Carpinteria allows their blueberries to ripen over a longer period of time and to develop a more complex flavor. When Ralph and Rachel are not growing blueberries they can be found “driving off into the sunset” on their motorcycles or in their motor home.
Buying and storing tips:
Look for firm, dry, plump and smooth skinned berries. The silvery bloom on the outside of the berry is a sign of freshness!
California produced 7,112,515 pounds of organic blueberries in 2014