I love surprises in the garden. One of them this year has been the appearance of ollalieberries hanging from our two vines. The olallieberry is a biennial, meaning that the berries we are getting this year are from vines that grew last year along wires we strung from one support to another. The leaves appear to have black spot (a fungus common in our damp coastal climate) on them but the vines are thriving and bearing about a cup of berries a day. New stalks are growing upward and the old vines will be cut to the ground after they’ve finish producing and the new vines will take their place. I got one of these vines from a fellow gardener and I grew the second vine from a cutting.
The word “olallie” is the word for berry in the language of Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. Olallieberry (pronounced oh-la-leh-berry) was developed in 1949 at Oregon State University by crossing a loganberry with a youngberry. Loganberries are a cross of blackberries and raspberries, while youngberries are a cross of blackberries and dewberries. Genetically, this resulted in two-thirds blackberry and one-third red raspberry. It’s physically characteristics are those of a blackberry but larger in size and somewhat sweeter. They have an intense, tart flavor, and are shiny and juicy. The olallieberry is grown mostly along the coast of California. They ripen in June and early July.
We have some reputation for olallieberries here in Cambria along the central coast. We are the home of Jon and Renee Linn, owners and creators of Linn’s More Fruit-Less Sugar Preserves and Pies. The couple owns a farm just outside town where they grow many crops, among them the olallieberries. They also own and manage bakeries, a gift shop, a coffee shop, and Linn’s Restaurant in town. You can also buy their tasty olallieberry creations at retail outlets.
If you are not inclined to “grow your own” you don’t need to deny yourself this treat. There are places where you can “pick your own olallieberries”. There are several well-known u-pick olallieberry farms that are open to the public. Crystal Bay Farm and Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, Phipps Ranch in Pescadero and Swanton Coastways Ranch in Danvenport are a few. If you know of any others that are along the central coast and within driving distance for a day trip, please share with us. ‘Tis the season for olallieberries. Go for it!