For a sweet taste of Old California, there are still “you pick ‘em” orchards across Los Angeles County where weekend harvesters can pluck from the choicest of fruit trees, fresh cherries or peaches and apricots, or the more exotic persimmons or Asian pears. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch and bring your own boxes or bags. 1. PJK CHERRY FARM
* 45674 Copco Ave., Gorman
In a small valley among rolling hills--only 15 minutes from Magic Mountain--is a 20-acre peach and cherry orchard. Here, cherry season begins June 4, with 700 trees bearing Bing and black tartarian cherries, which are sweeter and smaller than Bings. Peach season starts about Sept. 20, according to ranch owner Paul Kish. Once you’ve picked your fill, at about $1 per pound, you can hike or fish at nearby Quail Lake. Orchard hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Take the Golden State Freeway north from Los Angeles and exit at Quail Lake Road. Turn right, go under the bridge, then turn right again at Copco Avenue. At the end of the road continue a little farther to the entrance and head toward the big barn. Call (818) 337-6498 or (805) 248-1177 after June 4.
2. MILLER’S CHERRY FARM
* 18540 Pine Canyon Road, Lake Hughes
Tom Miller, a retired makeup artist for the movie industry, and his wife, Sandy, a retired schoolteacher, tend to a variety of 250 cherry trees on their three-acre orchard. Tom prefers to sell his cherries to “people not in a hurry; and children and people in wheelchairs” are especially welcome because many of his trees’ branches hang low. Customers are implored not to climb the trees or break the branches because the trees become susceptible to infection when scratched.
Take the Golden State Freeway north from Los Angeles to Lake Hughes Road, and turn right. Drive 22 miles to where the road ends at Elizabeth Lake Road. Turn left: Miller’s Ranch is around the corner, about a quarter of a mile. Opens June 11, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Costs about $1.25 per pound. (805) 724-1728.
3. NESSA RANCH
* 38820 Bouquet Canyon, Leona Valley
A parade on June 4 inaugurates the cherry season in Leona Valley, where 15 pick-your-own orchards can be found. Pick up a map at the general store or just follow the signs to find the orchards. Ranch owner Ken Striplin, like most other ranchers, provides ladders and buckets. Cherry season has begun at the 60-acre Nessa Ranch. Juicy, ripe peaches and Asian pears will be ready to harvest in mid-August. Prices average $1 per pound. Open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (805) 270-1973.
The Leona Valley cherry-picking hot line is (805) 266-7116.
Go north on I-5 from Los Angeles and take the Valencia Boulevard exit. Turn right (northeast) and go about four miles, then go left (north) to Bouquet Canyon, about 23 miles.
4. ZINK’S RANCH
* 35609 80th St., Littlerock
The aroma of the ripe apricot orchard on the Zink family’s 12-acre ranch is delicious at the end of June. Apricots and peaches sell for 45 cents a pound. Asian and Bartlett pears begin to ripen the first week in August, and picking goes on for about a month. Bartletts sell for 25 cents a pound and Asian pears are about 65 cents a pound. Call (805) 944-1239.
Take California 138 (Pearblossom Highway) from the Antelope Valley Freeway and exit at 80th Street. Turn left (north) from Pearblossom Highway.
5. HERITAGE PARK
* 5001 Via de Mansion Ave., La Verne
Behind the park’s 100-year-old Weber House are about 300 citrus trees. The self-serve harvest is meant to remind people of when the San Gabriel Valley boasted 40,000 acres of citrus groves and small farm crops, as well as to raise money for the park. Harvesters at the 1 1/2-acre park are assessed $4 for a 10-pound bag. Navel oranges can be picked between December and April. Valencia oranges are ready in April, but this year’s crop is small. Lemons are available year-round and a small pumpkin patch will be full of tricks and treats in October. Call for an appointment, (909) 593-2862.
Take Foothill Boulevard east from Los Angeles, turn left (north) on Wheeler Avenue, then turn right (east) on Via de Mansion Avenue.
6. BETSY YOUNG ORCHARD
* 9650 Wheatland Ave., Shadow Hills
Betsy Young, an orchid hobbyist and member of the California Rare Fruit Growers’ Assn., grows many unusual organic fruits, including sapote--a light green fruit that tastes like pudding and sells for about 50 cents a pound--and Persian mulberries, selling for about $1 a basket. Every Friday, Young opens a fruit stand in front of her house. Customers are also welcome to pick from the fruit trees, on Fridays only. Other seasonal produce: avocados, lemons, oranges, apples, persimmons, pineapple guavas, pomegranates and apricots. (818) 352-1366.
Take the Golden State Freeway north from Los Angeles and exit at Sunland Boulevard. Go east to Wheatland Avenue and turn right.
7. ORCUTT RANCH
* 23600 Roscoe Blvd., West Hills
This 25-acre orange and grapefruit orchard is run by the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. You can pick your own fruit from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 9 and 10. The fruit will be about $2 a grocery bag. Call (818) 883-6641 or (818) 883-8531.
Take the Hollywood Freeway north from Los Angeles to Valley Circle Boulevard (north) to Roscoe Boulevard and turn left (east).
Note: All the orchards listed are outside the Medfly quarantine area.