Living in LA we have to put up with hideous things like traffic, smog and flashing LED billboards at most major intersections. In exchange we are gifted with near perfect weather and a year-round growing season. Given the latter, I’d say it’s more than a fair exchange.
That means that on an afternoon in mid November, you can still go strawberry picking on a gorgeous, sunny, blue-sky kind of day. And I’m not talking mealy, green strawberries either. Bright red berries so juicy and sweet you’d swear it’s July.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting McGrath Family Farm for the first time where I met a friend and her kids to enjoy a picnic lunch, farm tour, and visit with goats, geese, hens and a bunny. Adorable.
Those of us in and around LA are probably familiar with Underwood Farms, which certainly offers a great adventure. However, sometimes it can be a bit much in terms of scale and kid chaos. McGrath Farms was totally different, yet had all the same components you enjoy at Underwood. Their fifth generation farm was a manageable size, quaint, beautifully maintained and had a farm stand that was to die for. (I’m a sucker for a good farm stand). I’d seen their gorgeous produce at farmers markets around LA, but had yet to visit the site itself, which is located a bit north in Camarillo.
When we arrived at the farm I was taken with the expansive open fields, blue sky and pretty wildflowers that dotted the edge of each crop. We spent a good two hours there eating a lunch that we’d packed from home, looking for the perfect strawberries, feeding the animals greens and carrots, and making our selections at the farm stand. My son and I purchased heirloom garlic, black currant balsamic vinegar, gorgeous greens (three varieties), plums, a copy of the “Vanishing Bees” DVD and two types of strawberry jam.
May I just tell you that as much as we loved the visit, the unexpected highlight was getting home to try the jam: strawberry with lavender & rosemary and strawberry with rose geranium. Oh My God. They were truly the best jams I’ve ever had – hand-made by McGrath Farms themselves. Perfect sweet strawberries picked from their fields, with the underlying hint of herbs that tasted so fresh and vibrant. I’ve tried A Lot of jam in my day, and this was hands down the best I’ve ever eaten. No exaggeration. Luckily, for some weird reason, my husband doesn’t eat jam, so my son and I are hoarding the two jars for ourselves. I’ll be surprised if they last through the week. We ate some for breakfast on whole grain toast, and I’m already thinking about topping it on Greek yogurt for an afternoon snack.
I’m so happy to have found yet another great spot to escape the city and spend a fun and yummy afternoon out in nature. The kids had a wonderful time, and my friend and I loved soaking up the sun and fresh air, then going home with healthy food that our kids picked themselves.
PS – I’m not sure if they allow picking on the weekend, so be sure to check ahead.