Monday, June 14, 2010

Very Berry Crisp with Webb Ranch U-Pick Berries

What could better than picking and eating fresh, delicious, organic berries? We're fortunate to have a local gem of a farm that opens its berry fields for picking every June. The Webb Ranch in Portola Valley has been owned and operated by the Webb family since 1922. They began by planting strawberries and have since expanded to include a variety of vegetables including corn, green beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and bell peppers. The ranch operates a local farmers' market open daily on Alpine Road near the 280 freeway, and its U-pick berry farm is just a bit farther west up Alpine Road. Webb Ranch is widely known for its corn picked hourly. They never sell day-old corn, instead feeding it to their pasture horses.

Our whole family has enjoyed picking berries there for about five years. Some tips for picking:

- Wear sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable, closed-toed shoes
- Pick inside the bush for berries with the best flavor
- Ripe berries come off easily
- Look for the berries with dark coloring
- Bring gloves since some of the vines have thorns

The ranch planted 6,000 new berry plants last season so this year's crop is particularly abundant. And there's an impressive variety of berries available: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and loganberries.

Telltale signs of successful berry picking include berry stains on hands and mouth, purplish lips, and a big smile. Of course the berries are delicious fresh, but we also love them with whipped cream and baked in a berry crisp. One of my favorite desserts is fruit crisp, especially when made with ripe, flavorful fruit. Below is a berry crisp recipe that I've had for so long I can't remember where I got it. Even though I can't trace the originator, I know that whoever created this recipe has left a delectable legacy for all those who have enjoyed it.

Very Berry Crisp

5 cups fresh berries of your choice
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup regular rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, separated
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts or coconut

1. Place washed fruit in a 2-quart square baking dish. Stir in the granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons of the all-purpose flour.

2. For topping, in a medium bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour and nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts or coconut. Sprinkle topping over filling.

3. Bake crisp in a 375 F degree oven for 30 minutes or until fruit is tender and topping is golden. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or your favorite vanilla ice cream. Makes 6 servings.

Berry crisp is best eaten outdoors after a nice summer meal. It tastes even better if you picked the berries yourself. Look at the luscious berry colors, smell the intoxicatingly sweet, buttery fragrance, and dig in. It's summertime!

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