Cranberries are local, seasonal, and free – for pies, scones, and jams. | Eat + Drink – Monterey County Weekly NOW

Cranberry season is just around the corner, with the first wave of berries nearing maturity in many sunny spots across the region. Cranberries may be a signature berry in Montana, but they can also be found eagle-eyed in Monterey County.

Jim Avenetto, born and raised in Pacific Grove, says the season will run through October, which “makes his mouth purple” and “collects as many as possible” each year.

Native to the western United States, cranberry tends to favor forests and mountain slopes. They are a kind of relative to the blueberries found in New England yet many people who discover them are intrigued but unsure of what to do next. The first question: How do they taste? I think of them as a smaller, slightly wilder version of blueberries that also bring to the table that cranberry flavor. Food lover’s companion This lilliput berry is defined as a “blue-black cranberry”. He also knows that the berries have 10 small hard seeds in the middle that taste like a pomegranate. Clutch is the word.

Since cranberries are very small, picking them in large quantities requires patience. I ended up with a bowl full after spending a few hours in the woods, listening to an audiobook. It took forever. For some, that’s part of the magic.

“I like that about them,” says Avenito. “It makes them somewhat more valuable. They have this wild feeling to them.”

If you want blueberry pie, you’ll probably need a handful of berries. If you’re going for muffins or muffins, you’ll probably need two handfuls. Because cranberries are smaller than domesticated blueberries and less watery, they behave better in pie, not to mention that you can use more without overcooking the pie. The same reasoning can be applied to cookies – replace your favorite chocolate chips with berries, or maybe mix the two together.

“I do everything with them,” Aveneto says. “I even named my cats after them. They are black and when I got them they were feral small. They looked like very small berries. Anyway, anything you can do with berries, you can do with berries.” The default is raspberry jam, which he gives annually as a holiday gift.

Affinito isn’t the only dedicated local forage.

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“All year round, my 5-year-old son looks forward to picking blackberries around our area and cranberries in the woods,” says Christine Dottererer of Monterey. “Children have a natural tendency to pick berries and it is an activity that creates a beneficial association with the natural place and ecosystem.”

Her family eats them straight from the bush. “We sometimes pick just enough to freeze and then we can eat it year-round on its own, or mix it with oatmeal or yogurt,” she says. “To me, they taste tart and even a little savory—packed with local flavor and nothing like store-bought super sweet berries.”

Dotterrer says cranberries are important to the cultural and environmental history of the Monterey Peninsula as evidenced by the fact that “Huckleberry Hill” is found in both Pebble Beach and Monterey.

“People of older generations have great stories of walking from their homes into the hills to pick cranberries as children,” she says.

The Dotterrer emphasizes safety when hunting berries. “Make sure you and your children know how to identify poison oak, which can sometimes grow tangled or close to berry bushes,” she says. “Also check for ticks afterwards.”

Additionally, it is important to note that foraging is restricted in many jurisdictions, including California state parks and county parks, as well as wilderness areas. Municipalities may have specific restrictions as well, so be aware before you start choosing. Once you have verified that foraging is permitted in your chosen location, remember to forage gently to avoid depleting natural resources.

For those who don’t want to pick berries, but love to learn: In Old American English slang, “berries over my persimmon” were meant to mean “a little above my abilities.” Also, “I am your berry” is a way of saying that someone is the right person for a particular task.

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