Faces of Portola Valley

The you pick ’em berry season opened this week at Webb Ranch, so we thought it was a good time to catch up with ranch manager Atlee Frechette, a fourth generation Webb who will give birth to a fifth generation later this year — her first child.

“Olallieberries, loganberries and Prime Ark blackberries are the first ones to ripen this year,” she said.

“None of them are common berries. Since taking over this portion of the business two years, I’ve learned so much about berry varieties — the cross breeding and how they came to be. It’s fun!”

The berry season typically lasts through August, depending on the weather. U-pick is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.

“Over the next three weeks, more varieties will ripen,” Atlee said.  “We have bosenberries, red and golden raspberries and two other types of blackberries, Navajo and Obsidian.”

The berries all have distinct looks. Prime Ark, for example has extra large droplets and little juice pods; Navajo is smaller and rounder. And important to aficionados, most have a distinct taste.

“That’s important to customers who make jams and pies,” said Atlee. “Many of these folks reach out to me to arrange to come out when a specific berry is ripe. They come with lots of flat and pick all morning.

“Then there’s the customer who comes every Tuesday or Thursday morning right when we open to pick berries to take to work. I think that’s terrific.”

While we visited Atlee at Webb before the recent heat wave, we did ask her about all the rain that lasted well into spring this year. “The more rain the better — the longer we can wait to turn on our irrigation.

“We did worry about the late rain knocking off the blossoms, but so far so good.

“Logans and raspberries take more water to do well. And they’re coming out — and happy!”

Footnote: Yes, that’s Webb Ranch working dog Nelli in the photo but there are no family pets — and no smoking — allowed during U pick hours. Cost is $4.00 for entry (0-4 and 65+ are free); $5.50 per pound of berries.

Photos by Scott R. Kline (c) 2019

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