Daily Archives: July 22, 2007

Berry berry good fun–berry picking

basket beginning to fill up with berries

While the rest of the world cracked open their Harry Potter books yesterday, we went berry picking!

We drove along the picturesque California coast to Phipps Country Farm in Pescadero, which at this time of year boasts strawberries, boysenberries, and olallieberries in season. We were hitting the very tail end of both the boysenberry and olallieberry seasons and wondered if we would even see any, preparing ourselves to only pick strawberries. When we got there, we headed straight over to the boysenberry vines that seemed to be withering away. Still, we got a few cups of boysenberries, after looking very closely at the vines for the black ripened ones.

Boysenberry vines

Picking berries reminded me of the time I went grape picking with a friend who made his own wine. The arrangements for grape picking were such that we were picking the remainder of the grapes after the winery had already gone through with their main harvest–my friend called it “second harvest.” While there were still plenty of grapes left on the vine, many of them perfect for harvest, we still had to look closely for those bunches, tasting the grapes for the proper sweetness as we went. By the end of the day, our bodies were aching and our tastebuds spent.

The berry farm reminded me of that experience. Except that this time, we were leisurely picking a basketful of berries to savor later, and not crates and crates of grapes that took hours and hours to pick and would be crushed that evening. Honestly, the grape picking was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, with the great silence in the fields and the beauty of the October landscape…but it gave me a new respect for grapepickers because it was very very tiring.

In contrast, this berry picking trip was pure delight, almost therapeutic, and definitely fun. Perhaps the grape picking, years ago, trained me for this experience–but it was a joy. “One of us” was very competitive and went off picking as many berries as he could, but why? We let him win.

the farm

Above is the strawberry patch, adjacent to the beans. We obliged ourselves to a few strawberries, but turned our focus to the boysenberries and olallieberries quickly.

But before we started picking, we examined a map of the farm, planning our attack upon the berries.

Map of the berry farm

Of course, we took a detour and visited the farm animals first, but nearly skipped towards the strawberries and then the boysenberries.


We quickly discovered, through a chorus of “ouch!” that the vines are thorny. Still, we giggled, as we popped the occasional berry into our mouths and watched our baskets fill. (Yes, I was able to overcome my OCD of popping berries covered with a fine film of dust and soil–the mood of the moment overcame any anxiety I may have had). The above is a closeup of a boysenberry, which is a cross between a loganberry and a dewberry, made famous by Knott’s Berry Farm.

Still, as we glanced over at the olallieberries, we got a bit confused–the boysenberries seemed to, at first, look exactly like olallieberries. We looked closer and noted some differences, and by the end of picking became adept at discerning between the two. The boysenberries are less densely packed and sweeter than the tangier olallieberries, again a blackberry hybrid of loganberry and youngberry:

olallieberries, close up

The olallieberries were aplenty, and our baskets readily filled after picking through one row. Now was the time, when we began thinking about how we would eat the berries, so fragrant and bursting. At this point, everyone’s fingers were stained with berries (except mine–mine were instead, pricked with thorns from picking the berries from the stem–leaving no berry juice but plenty of “ouchies”). Be forewarned. Next time we go berrypicking, we’re taking gloves!

Basket now filling up with olallieberries

Still, how could you resist this beauty? Our morning was full of smiles, the farm was beautiful, the skies began with cloudcover, with some wisps of fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean, making for a picturesque scene. By the time the sun broke out, it was lunchtime, and our baskets were full.

And–we came home to find my Harry Potter book delivered in our mailbox. 🙂

Next–stay tuned for berry usage recipes!


St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

I love elderflower beverages, especially a cordial or presse mixed with sparkling water. I was first introduced to this flavor at a friend’s house–she gleefully went to her fridge and brought out the chilled bottle of elderflower cordial. “You’ll love this!” she exclaimed, as she mixed it with club soda. We enjoyed that beverage in the living room, our mouths swirling with the unique floral and fruity flavors of elderflower. (Man, if I ever run into an elderflower plant, you know I’ll bury my nose in its blooms, and possibly eat a flower head).

When I was in London, I happily tried many of the elderflower beverages–they seemed a mainstay in the beverage aisle! In the U.S., you’ll only find them at specialty stores, or in specialty aisles at gourmet grocery stores.

I guzzled those cordials down during my short visit.

elderflower cordial

And so, when I heard about an elderflower liqueur, I kept my eyes wide open for that Art Deco/Art Nouveau (ohh, I do so love Art Deco and Art Nouveau) bottle. I couldn’t find it, and nearly gave up. But then I found it (of all places) at Beverages and More!

Of course, you know I drove right over and grabbed a bottle.

Of course, you know, even though at the time I was under medical orders to abstain from alcohol…that I snuck a little sip. It was the most wonderful liqueur, one that really captured the essence of elderflower, instead of smothering it in an alcoholic haze. It is a bit on the sweet side, but then again, I’m also a fan of dessert wines like trockenbeerenauslese and beerenauselese rieslings, and sauternes.

This is one of those liqueurs that you can drink without mixing, in a glass full of ice, or simply with some club soda (as soon as I was off the ban, I was right on that). Recipes are popping up for this liqueur all over the place, as it’s building quite a little fan base.

I’m now thinking about how I could use it in desserts and incorporate it into food recipes. I’m thinking–poached fruit in this wonderful liqueur–or maybe sneaking it into the egg mixture for a french toast? I’m not sure how the floral taste would work with the french toast, but it might work.

a cocktail recipe follows after the jump…

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