The freshest fruits and veggies you can find

Charlotte, Theo and Maria Clouthier of Santa Clarita enjoy a sunny day at the Underwood Family Farms’ strawberry patch in Somis. PHOTOS BY PERRY SMITH / THE SIGNAL
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Growing your own garden can be one of the most rewarding parts of experiencing nature. 

You plant the seeds, steadily water each day and you can even join a group or follow along on a local column like Jane Gates’ to get advice on what to grow and when.

Some of us, however, don’t have a green thumb, or even a pinkie, to a maddening degree.

Sure, the farmers market in Old Town Newhall brings us a healthy selection, in more ways than one, of food products and produce from all over. But sometimes, you need to clear the Newhall Pass and feel the ocean breeze.

While I was in Somis at the Underwood Farms location there during a recent Friday trip, there were about 15 other families there by 3 or so in the afternoon, and everyone was able to enjoy the beautiful weather, as well as a socially distanced day outside, and even a nature lesson.

Or, you can check out the list below, and ask around — always a good idea to make sure the place you’re planning to visit will be open when you’re planning to be there.

Nature right next door

We’re fortunate for so many reasons living in the Santa Clarita Valley, and one of the things that’s so easy to take for granted is our proximity to what’s known as the “Breadbasket of America,” aka the Central Valley.

While the onion fields, fruit groves and cow pastures that used to permeate the Santa Clarita Valley have transformed into a family-friendly community, the fruits, and vegetables, of nature are still right next door.

Whether you’d like to take the coastal route along State Route 126 to the 101 Freeway, or the inland trail along Highway 118 and Interstate 5, everything from avocados to zucchini can be found, and most places have options where you can pick your own.

A few of the most popular options to start with include the neighboring Simi, Leona and Santa Ynez Valley areas.

Leona Valley

Info all the “Cherry Hotline” before heading to Villa Del Sol (661) 270-1356.

Leona Valley is well-known for its cherry picking in the agricultural world. There are a handful of places you can find, with the closest probably being Villa del Sol Sweet Cherry Farms on the way out to Rolling Thunder Cherry Ranch, which is closer to Lake Elizabeth.

Underwood Family Farms

Info 805) 529-3690. Underwoodfamilyfarms.com/pick-your-own-this-week

While the animal center is currently closed (but that could change soon), Underwood is still a fantastic place to take the kids, or enjoy an afternoon out with your significant other.

The website has a listing for what’s available each week at one of two locations, Moorpark and Somis.

Santa Barbara

Info anta Barbara Blueberries, (805) 686-5718

While more known for its coastal excursions and wineries, the breathtaking drive up the coast to Santa Barbara also offers some of the best berry-picking opportunities around.

Like many of the places on the list, Santa Barbara Blueberries, for example, is open seven days a week. A $5-per-person fee lets you pick through a delicious selection. Blueberries are there through August, and six varieties of raspberries ripe and ready from August to October.

There are also “watermelons, cantaloupe and other fun fruits and veggies for picking in the late summer and fall,” according to the location’s site.  

What’s in season

Before you go hunting for locations, there’s a website that will help you find the best times to find them. 

The Seasonal Food Guide is part of a national database available at  seasonalfoodguide.org/
california
,  which offers “recipes and in-depth information on local, seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, legumes and nuts,” according to its site.

In the neighborhood

Info pencer Makenzie’s, (805) 643-8226.

Pea Soup Andersen’s, (805) 688-5581.

One thing to remember, picking fresh fruits in the summer sun can not only help you prepare the freshest meal possible to satisfy any appetite, but it’ll help you work up an appetite, too.

After a few hours of picking fruits, my wife, Kirsten, and I have a few options that are truly a reward for our hard work in the field: Spencer Makenzie’s, which is an award-winning fish taco place in Ventura and Camarillo; local wineries, which are abundant near just about every place where you see agriculture in this area; and Pea Soup Andersen’s, a local favorite in Buellton.

You also want to make sure you have sunscreen, as fruit picking can be rough on the fair-skinned.

Also, bring a few bottles of water. Most places sell some, but it’s less expensive to bring your own. 

A few reminders

Regardless of whether the place you’re headed is playing by the rules of the quarantine — and some of the places you might go picking have different rules than Los Angeles County’s, so you’ll want to check for each place you’re thinking of going to — you should always take your own precautions into account.

This means in addition to sunscreen and water, you should probably bring personal protective equipment, including a mask and gloves, if you feel necessary.

You might also want to include snacks that will keep in the car, if you’re thinking of going to the wineries afterward.

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