Visiting Julian, CA during Apple Harvest seems to be one of the best times of the year to make this mountain pilgrimage. Julian is home to over a dozen orchards and surprisingly, a handful of vineyards, too. On this last visit we decided to drop in on two places: Raven Hill Orchards and O’Dell’s Organic Orchard. Both experiences were unique in their own way and I’m looking forward to making this an annual affair.
First up on our U-Pick adventure was Raven Hill. Off the side of the road,we found ample parking in front of the orchards. We were immediately greeted by these awesome looking steel sculptures which were created by Patrick Brady, who helps manage the orchard with his brother.
Raven Hill Orchard was neat as neat could be. Row after row of dwarf apple trees to choose from. Green, gold, red! Since it was early in the apple season, only a few rows were really bountiful in the ripe fruit, but this orchard is large and it took no time to full up our half a peck bag ($10) to the brim with freshly picked apples. What I liked about this orchard was that tasting as you pick is encouraged and the trees were very healthy. I’ve been to other U-Pick apple places that were a little more uptight and the trees looked sad. Raven Hill however, is a great place to bring your families. The kids especially, would love the smaller trees.
Just a little ways down the road (about a 15 minute walk or a one minute drive), O’Dell’s Organic Orchards offered an alternative to the apple madness. As one of the only places we could find in the area that were specializing in pears, I was looking forward to their varieties of Bosc, Anjou, and Bartletts. For another $10, we got yet another half a peck bag from the nicest folks and an equally nice dog named Reba.
These grounds were much more free-form with uneven ground and very healthy trees scattered about acres of property. Much different than the perfect vineyard-like rows up the road, we saw a few folks pack picnics to enjoy in this beautiful scenery. The pears here were beautiful, although many were still coming along in ripeness. I was a particular fan of the red pears, which bake in the oven with cinnamon just wonderfully.
With over 20 pounds of apples and pears in tow, we were happy campers. If yu compare the price of fresh organic fruit from Whole Foods or a major grocery store, these U-Pick options were incredibly inexpensive for $20 total. Not to mention the fact that you get to choose what size fruit you get (we got smaller apples so we ended up with more of them). I highly recommend sharing these gems with people you know…unless you can somehow plow through 20 lbs. of apples within a week?
That would be a whole lot of pie…