It’s our favorite time of the year – U-pick cherry picking at local farms in Brentwood, California (70+ miles northeast of San Jose). This city is known for various fruit and vegetable picking opportunities, and cherries are popular!
When is cherry picking season? The short cherry picking season is from mid-May (around Mother’s Day) to mid-June, depending on the rainfall and crop availability. Currently in the beginning of May 2021, there are some early arrivals (Tiogas and Hazels varieties) available for picking cherries. Bing varieties will be available in a few weeks.
We know you can easily purchase cherries at the grocery stores. Yet, it’s an amazing feeling of putting the hard work and effort into picking the perfect cherry with the right sweetness, color, size, firmness, and devouring the “fruits” of your labor.
Here are some helpful tips to pick your own cherries in Brentwood, California. It’s a perfect day trip from San Francisco, San Jose, or any parts of the Bay Area. Plus, it’s a good learning experience for children to see their fruits grown on a farm.
Bring the entire family and consider spending an entire or half-day at various farms. You may even consider bringing lunch to have a picnic at the farms if the farms allow it.
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How To Pick Your Own Cherries in Brentwood
1. Determine when to go.
With the limited season, most people visit the cherry picking farms on the weekends. However, it’s recommended to avoid the holiday weekends such as Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. The roads are congested due to the 1-2 lane roads in the city, and you will be stuck in traffic for a while.
If you have the opportunity to take a day off work or work a half-day, visit the farms on the weekdays. The cherry picking is more enjoyable with fewer visitors on the farm.
Go early in the morning to beat the traffic and get a nice parking spot. Most of the farms open around 9am and close in the mid-afternoon (3pm – 4pm), or when cherries are sold out for the day. We’ve seen cars parked along the side of the roads which may be tight for cars passing by. We recommend arriving at the farms before 10am.
Brentwood also gets hot (over 80°F) as the day progresses so it’s in your best interest to start early in the morning.
2. Decide which Brentwood farm(s) to visit.
Check out the Harvest Time in Brentwood Facebook page for current updates on U-pick cherry farms and what varieties of cherries they’re offering. You can also visit their website. Some farms require reservations.
UPDATE: Please review the latest post from Harvest Time on the social distancing rules here. Some farms require wearing masks before entering.
If you don’t want to plan ahead, you can easily drive to one of many farms in the area. As you enter Brentwood, there are multiple signs pointing in all directions for picking cherries, other fruits, and vegetables. Feel free to go cherry picking hopping at different farms.
Our Recommendation Is Nunn Better Farms
We recommend Nunn Better Farms (5500 Balfour Road, Brentwood or the main farm on 2777 Sellers Avenue, Brentwood) as we’ve gone there three years in a row.
The orchard is huge and the areas are sectioned off depending on the cherries’ ripeness. Plus, the farm consistently offers high-quality cherries that are firm and of large size. We usually pick the Bing cherries here. Nunn Better Farms offers free parking in their dirt parking lot and doesn’t require reservations to enter.
In 2020, the cherry prices cost were $3.50 per pound. We think it’s a fair price as the cherries are For updated information such as operating hours and schedule, check out their Twitter.
3. Identify your perfect cherry and flavor and taste cherry samples.
Once you visit a farm, it’s easy to start your U-pick cherries! How do you pick cherries? Grab a bucket at the entrance of the farm, choose a tree, and start sampling.
What is your perfect cherry? What is the texture, color, or firmness that you’re looking for? Tasting/sampling the cherries to ensure that they meet your criteria. Plus, there will be less waste if they are picked randomly. Sampling cherries is filling so spread out your sampling accordingly!
When we first went cherry picking in 2007 (not at Nunn Better Farms), we ate them straight off the tree. However, they were dusty and our throats were scratchy and irritated. That is what we get for getting overly excited about trying cherries. Afterward, we learned to bring a water bottle to wash them off before tasting.
4. Start picking cherries.
Use your hands to pick the large and ripe cherries off the tree. If you go earlier in the season, the cherries on the lower branches are easier to reach.
Otherwise, bringing a step ladder is helpful as the darker, sweeter cherries are higher up on the tree. The farms may have ladders scattered throughout their orchard. However, you’ll need to wait for the ladders as they are used often.
5. Stay at the farms for as long as you’d like.
Feel free to pick cherries as long as you want. It’s a fun bonding experience with family and friends. We usually spend about 2 hours picking over 10 pounds during each trip. It is worth the trip as all of the cherries are devoured in one week.
Additional Tips For A Fun Cherry Picking Day Trip in Brentwood
- Call the farms to confirm the hours, availability, cherry variety, and ask if pets are allowed. The varieties include Sweetheart, Rainers, Champagne, Bing, and more.
- Wear comfy clothes, a hat, and closed toe shoes. The farms are dusty. If you’re looking for a hat, buy this one!
- Bring water to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen. It can be hot in the afternoons. You can also use the water to wash off the cherries for sampling. We recommend that you purchase this water bottle and use this sunscreen.
- Bring a step ladder or stool for the hard-to-reach cherries. You may not find one on the orchard farm. The cherries on the taller branches are often dark and sweet! Purchase this step ladder for your daily uses.
- Pick the ripe cherries that you’ll buy and eat. This is important!! Do not waste them. We saw a lot of discarded cherries on the ground. The farmers spent a lot of time taking care of the trees and it’s such a shame that people would leave buckets of picked cherries on the ground.
- Bring cash to pay for your cherries.
- Bring food and beverages if the farms have a picnic area. You’ll need to verify with a farm in advance.
- Pack a cooler with ice for transporting cherries back home. Buy this cooler! It’s warm during the afternoons in Brentwood. You wouldn’t want your cherries to overheat on the ride back home.
- Consider bringing a car that you don’t mind getting dirty. Due to the dirt parking lots and open lands, it gets dusty in the area.
We hope you consider visiting Brentwood, California for the cherry picking season. It’s a fun activity that is easy to do and is perfect for all ages. Go cherry picking now!
Have you picked cherries before? If so, where is your favorite farm to get cherries?
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