Looking for a fun weekend activity for the family? Head to Brentwood in eastern Contra Costa County to pluck some plump, sweet cherries fresh from the tree. Cherry season in Northern California is in May and June, with Memorial Day being the traditional kick off to the picking (U-pick) season.
Given the high concentration of fruit farms in this relatively small area – over two dozen at least – you could just head there and follow signs to any farm. It’s wise to do a little advance planning however. Call the farm to check their days and hours for picking. Many farms only offer U-pick on the weekends, so be prepared for big crowds. We went two weeks before Memorial Day, and I was shocked at the number of people with the same idea. The wait to pay for our cherries was about half an hour (almost a Disneyland wait time!)
Most farms I looked at charged $3.50 a pound and require cash. You grab empty plastic buckets when you arrive, head into the pleasantly-shaded orchards, and start picking – no climbing necessary. It’s that easy. Fill half a bucket to get by for a few days of snacks, or fill as many buckets as you can carry if you have more ambitious culinary plans for your fruit.
As I already mentioned, be prepared for huge crowds; the farther you go into the orchard though, the fewer people you’ll have to compete with. We saw several families making a day of it with blankets and picnic lunches under the trees. Once you’ve got what you want, you return the filled buckets to the payment area, they dump your cherries into bags and weigh them (you can bring your own bag and save the planet from more plastic!), and you’re ready to go.
- Check out farms ahead of time at www.everythingbrentwood.com/brentwoodcherrypicking or the Harvest Times Farms Facebook page. (You can also download the Harvest Time in Brentwood app to your smart phone.)
- Call farms to check hours and fruit availability.
- Go early in the day to beat the crowds.
- Be sure to bring cash, water, sunscreen, and a hat.