Berry Good: Exploring California’s Blackberries and Olallieberries from Field to Fork


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Berry Good: Exploring California’s Blackberries and Olallieberries from Field to Fork

June 19, 2024
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Berry Good: Exploring California’s Blackberries and Olallieberries from Field to Fork

Berry Good: Exploring California’s Blackberries and Olallieberries from Field to Fork

California is a state known for its rich agricultural diversity, and among its many delicious bounties, blackberries and olallieberries -which are beloved fruits. These berries, with their sweet-tart flavors, have a special place in the hearts (and kitchens) of many Californians. Let’s explore how blackberries and olallieberries grow in the Golden State and share some delightful ways to enjoy some of summer’s sweetest fruits!

vine with ripe and unripe blackberries

The Basics: Blackberries and Olallieberries

Blackberries and olallieberries, though similar in appearance, have distinct differences in origin, flavors, and growing conditions. 

Blackberries are a familiar fruit to many. They have a deep, dark purple (almost black) color and juicy, sweet-tart flavor. They belong to the genus Rubus and are part of the Rosaceae family. That’s right, blackberries and roses are cousins! Blackberries are aggregate fruits, composed of small drupelets, each containing a seed.

Blackberries, native to various regions worldwide, can grow on both trailing and erect canes. In California, they thrive in temperate regions such as Watsonville, the Santa Maria Valley, and the Central Valley, where mild winters and warm summers create ideal growing conditions.

Olallieberries, on the other hand, are a bit more of a mystery to those outside of the West Coast. An olallieberry is a cross between a loganberry and a youngberry, which are themselves hybrids of other berries. This complex lineage gives the olallieberry its unique flavor—richer and slightly sweeter than a blackberry, with a hint of tartness. The name “olallie” comes from the Chinook word for berry. These berries flourish in cool, coastal climates with foggy mornings and sunny afternoons.

Growing Seasons and Regions

California’s diverse climate allows for the successful cultivation of both blackberries and olallieberries. Let’s take a closer look at the growing seasons and the best regions for these berries:


Blackberries thrive in several California regions, including the Central Coast, San Joaquin Valley, and Northern California. Here they benefit from fertile soil and a temperate climate. They thrive in well-drained, fertile soil in full sun, and regular watering. Regular watering is especially crucial during establishment and fruiting, and drip irrigation is recommended. They need pruning annually to remove old canes and promote new growth. Integrated pest management, including encouraging natural predators and using disease-resistant varieties, helps control common pests like aphids and spider mites, as well as diseases such as powdery mildew.


Olallieberries flourish along California’s Central Coast, particularly around Pescadero and Santa Cruz, thanks to the cool, coastal climate. These berries should also be planted in well-drained, fertile soil with good sun exposure, spacing the plants similarly to blackberries. Like blackberries, olalieberries require a trellis for support as well as consistent watering. The canes require annual pruning after the summer harvest to remove old growth and encourage new shoots. Effective pest and disease management, including good sanitation practices and the use of natural predators, is essential to protect against issues like root rot and aphids.

woman holding freshly picked blackberries

U-Pick and Visit: Blackberry and Olallieberry Farms in California

Exploring California’s u-pick farms and visiting local berry patches is a delightful way to enjoy the fresh bounty of blackberries and olallieberries and to get a firsthand look at how they grow (and how challenging they can be to pick). Here are some top spots where you can experience the joy of picking your own berries:


Slices of gizdich ranch pies on paper plates with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Gizdich Ranch (Watsonville)

Located in the heart of the Central Coast, Gizdich Ranch offers a family-friendly atmosphere with u-pick blackberries, strawberries, and other fruits. After a day of picking, enjoy fresh pies and juice made on-site.


Swanton Berry Farm (Davenport)

This certified organic farm on the Central Coast is known for its delicious u-pick blackberries and strawberries. With its scenic coastal views, Swanton Berry Farm is a perfect destination for a berry-picking outing.


Arata Farms (Hollister)

Arata Farms offers u-pick blackberries along with a variety of other seasonal fruits. The farm provides a charming rural setting where visitors can enjoy fresh-picked berries and explore the surrounding countryside.


Underwood Family Farm

Located in Southern California, Underwood Family Farms offers a wide range of u-pick fruits and vegetables, including blackberries. The farm features fun activities for families, such as tractor rides and a petting zoo.



Swanton Berry Farm (Davenport)

In addition to blackberries, Swanton Berry Farm also offers u-pick olallieberries. This organic farm is an ideal spot to enjoy fresh berries while taking in the beautiful coastal scenery.


Pie Ranch (Pescadero)

Pie Ranch offers u-pick olallieberries and is well-known for its educational programs and commitment to sustainable farming. Visitors can enjoy fresh pies and learn about farm-to-table practices.


olallieberries in a box

LJB Farms (San Martin)

This family-owned farm offers a variety of seasonal fruits, including olallieberries. Visitors can enjoy a day of berry picking and explore the farm’s produce stand, which sells fresh and local goods.


Enjoying Blackberries and Olallieberries

Now that we’re done sharing how these berries grow and where you can pick some of your own, let’s dive into the fun part: enjoying them! From fresh snacks to delectable desserts, blackberries and olallieberries are incredibly versatile.

Fresh from the Bush

There’s nothing quite like the taste of freshly picked berries. Enjoying blackberries and olallieberries straight from the bush is one of life’s simple pleasures. Their sweet-tart flavor is a refreshing treat on a warm summer day.

In Smoothies and Juices

Berries are a fantastic addition to smoothies and juices. They add natural sweetness, vibrant color, and a nutritional boost. 

Baking and Desserts

Blackberries and olallieberries shine in a variety of baked goods and desserts. Their rich flavor and natural juiciness make them perfect for pies, cobblers, tarts, and more.

Jams and Preserves

Making homemade jams and preserves is a wonderful way to capture the essence of summer and enjoy it year-round. 

Salads and Savory Dishes

Berries aren’t just for sweets—they add a delightful twist to salads and savory dishes too. 

Freezing and Storing

frozen blackberries on a baking sheet

To extend the enjoyment of your berry harvest, consider freezing them. Properly frozen berries retain their flavor and nutritional value, making them a great option for off-season use. Frozen berries are excellent for smoothies, baking, and sauces.

How to Freeze Berries:

  1. Gently wash and dry the berries.
  2. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid.
  3. Transfer the frozen berries to airtight containers or freezer bags.
  4. Label with the date and use within six months for the best quality.

Learn where you can pick your own CA GROWN produce all throughout the Golden State >>>

Growing blackberries and olallieberries requires a blend of knowledge, care, and dedication. With the right conditions and maintenance, these berries can thrive, offering bountiful harvests season after season. Whether enjoying them fresh, blended into a smoothie, baked into a pie, or preserved as jam, CA GROWN blackberries and ollallieberries bring joy (and some good nutrition) to countless people. 

As you savor these delightful berries, remember the journey from farm to table – like the meticulous growing process and the careful harvesting by skilled farmworkers – while you enjoy these fruits. Here’s to celebrating and appreciating the delicious bounty of blackberries and olallieberries in the Golden State!

Article written by Alison Needham for California Grown. Images by James Collier and Alison Needham.

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