About 30 minutes from downtown Fresno is a humble ranch northwest of Hanford with rows of plump, juicy berries waiting to be picked.
The Rancho Notso Grande, at the corner of 12th and Excelsior avenues, is a you-pick farm producing a bevy of berries.
Created by farmer John Olivas, the farm has several berry varieties ready for harvesting: blueberries, raspberries, tayberries, blackberries and olallieberries. Not far behind are the much-sought-after-boysenberries.
For berry-lovers, it's like a trip to paradise.
"My son absolutely loves blueberries; that's why we came out here," says Kristi Dalby of Hanford.
While Dalby was focused on finding just the right blueberry, her toddler son Brecken was less discriminating, plucking berries and eating them off the vine.
Olivas says that's part of the fun of his you-pick ranch: You can sample as much as you like.
And don't worry if you are not sure what you are doing. Olivas or his ranch manager, Luz Mendoza, will give you a crash course on how to pick the best berries.
Olivas' ranch draws customers from throughout the central San Joaquin Valley and from as far away as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"For some, it really brings back memories of picking wild berries near the river and making cobbler," Olivas says.
People savor the sweet tartness of blueberries, the juiciness of blackberries and the explosion of berry flavor from the olallieberries, which are a cross between a loganberry and a youngberry. The lesser-known tayberry is a cross between a raspberry and blackberry and has a rose petal-like flavor.
Picking your own berries will cost $6.50 a pound, or you can buy them at the Rancho's fruit stand for $8.50 a pound. Olivas also sells homemade preserves and blackberry wine.
The farm, 5051 12th Ave. in Hanford, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Like Olivas, Gayle Willems of Berry Lady Farms in Kingsburg also is a popular person this time of year.
She sells blueberries and blackberries and will have ruby boysenberries in early June at her family farm store, 39771 Road 28 in Kingsburg. She also is a vendor on Wednesdays at the Kaiser Permanente Fresno farmers market, 7300 N. Fresno St.
"We sold out the first week we came to the market," Willems says.
Several of the area's fruit stands also are selling berries, including Simonian Farms at Clovis and Jensen avenues, and Sumner Peck Ranch Fruit Stand at 14860 Highway 41 in Madera County.
Farmers markets with berries include the Vineyard Farmers Market in Fresno at Blackstone and Shaw avenues (open Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings), the Old Town Clovis Farmers Market on Friday nights and River Park Farmers Market on Tuesday nights.
Daisy's Berry vinaigrette from Rancho Notso Grande
2 cups of mixed berries
1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons of cabernet sauvignon
Pinch of salt and pepper
Blend well and strain seeds. Pour over your favorite salad. Refrigerate unused portion.
Berry Lady's fruit pizza
Makes 12 servings
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Combine in mixer until smooth. Press into standard size pizza pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.
8 oz. cube of cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 of a regular size Cool Whip container
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Blend in mixer and spread on cooled crust.
4 cups of blackberries, blueberries or boysenberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
Combine ingredients in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 9-11 minutes, stirring at 3 minute intervals. Cool. Spread over cream cheese filling.
Cooking tips: You can prepare the ingredients the night before, refrigerate the filling and sauce, and assemble it before serving.