It doesn’t feel much like winter in Santa Monica and the beautiful, warm weather means that berries are arriving early at the Santa Monica Farmers Markets. Whitney Ranch of Carpinteria is already back at the Wednesday Market with their blueberries. California is not always thought of for its blueberries, especially because they need acidic soil to grow and Southern California has mostly alkaline soil. California blueberries are different varieties of blueberries than what you find in other parts of the country. In Southern California blueberries grow well in coastal climates and many of the blueberry varieties grown by Whitney Ranch are being tested by the University of California Extension Service for recommendation to new blueberry growers of the latest and most successful varieties available. Right now at the Market they have Emerald and Star varieties. They are both firm varieties; the Emerald are bigger and the Star have a star shape on the bottom of the berry. The early season berries will be a bit tart, but will continue to get sweeter and sweeter as the season goes on. Whitney should have blueberries until June.
Pudwill Farm in Nipomo grows outstand berries and was one of the first farms to attend the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market and now attend all four Santa Monica Farmers Markets. Pudwill grow blueberries almost year round. Blueberries like weather that is not too hot and not too cold, so in the cold months from November through March they keep their berries covered. They grow about ten to fifteen varieties of blueberries that rotate throughout the year depending on the weather. Check back at Pudwill each week to taste all of their different blueberries.
If you want to grow your own blueberries go visit Jimmy and Logan Williams of Hayground Organics at the Wednesday and Saturday Downtown Markets. Hayground has about five different varities of blueberry plants. Jimmy and Logan recommend digging a two foot hole for a blueberry plant and to treat it like a large pot, planting it in half peet moss and half organic potting soil. They also sell special organic blueberry fertilizer. Blueberry plants take about two to three years to produce. Hayground has plants of all ages, so if you buy an older plant you could enjoy home grown blueberries this season!