Thursday, August 19, 2010

Swanton Berry Farm and the joys of Highway 1

I might come back with another post or two about my trip to Europe, but for now I'll talk about my trip down the coast towards Santa Cruz this past weekend.  I have done this trip many times.  My best friend studied at UC Santa Cruz and I visited her there often at the time.  And once she moved up to the Bay Area proper we often made trips down the coast to Santa Cruz to visit.

Our regular route is across the 92 to Half Moon Bay and then south.  There is a lot to do on this little stretch of coast, and lots of cool beaches right on the side of the highway to stop and hang out at.  But what prompted this trip was my desire to go pick berries at Swanton Berry Farm.
This is an organic farm that uses unionized labor.  How much better could you feel about where your food comes from?  Well even better if you pick the food yourself.  They have a U-pick service for some of their crops depending on the season.  Right now they have strawberries and blackberries.  I think they are known locally for the olallieberries, but I missed the season.  Next time.  Later in the year they also have kiwis to pick.  Yum.  My best friend couldn't come, but it was easy finding volunteers.
I have to say the strawberries were some of the best I've ever had.  The blackberries were good, but not supersweet. I think they need a little more time to ripen.  They were great with a little vanilla yogurt though.  The strawberries I didn't want to dilute at all, so they all got eaten fresh.
If you do decide to cruise down this stretch of Highway 1, I suggest you also stop in Pescadero at the Arcangeli Grocery Co. to try the artichoke garlic herb bread.  This stuff is amazing.  I always get one loaf to eat on the drive and at least one to take home.  There's also the Bonny Doon vineyard for some winetasting and the giant haybale maze at Arata Pumpkin Farm.  And of course don't forget to stop at one of the many beaches to eat your bread, berries, and drink your wine.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Alpine wildflowers part 2

 So we saw way too many wildflowers on our hike in the Bernese Oberland to put them all in one post.  So here are a few more.  I thought this one might be some sort of rhododendron and it was.  Rhododendron hirsutum.
This little ball of yellow is called Anke bauli in the local Swiss German dialect, which literally translates as little butterball.  Its Latin name is Trollius europaeus.
This one had a very unique flower and according to the flora at the hut was Silene vulgaris.  According to wikipedia parts of the plant are edible, but I'm not sure I'd rely on wikipedia to know what's edible and what's not.
And everyone needs a sneed.  This weird Dr. Seuss looking thing is an Anemone alpina after it was done flowering.
 The first of the photos below is, I believe, Phyteuma orbiculare.  And the second is Rhinanthus minor.  Both very unusual flowers.  The phyteuma's common name in English is Rampion but in Italian is Raponzolo and may be where Rapunzel got her name in the story.  While Rhinanthus minor is hemi-parasitic (i.e. getting some of its nutrients from neighboring plants) like our Indian paintbrush.
The last three flowers I tracked down with the help of this website about Alpenblume, or Alpine flowers.  It's searchable by color, month and size of blooms.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wildflowers and hiking in the Swiss Alps

So one of the reasons I haven't been blogging lately is that I was in Europe for 2 1/2 weeks.  I went for a friend's wedding and to visit several other friends, so I had a wonderfully busy time.  One of the many highlights was a 2 day hike in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland.  We parked in Lauterbrunnen and then took a gondol up part of the mountain and then were on our way.
While keeping one eye on the incredibly beautiful views of mountains, valleys and glaciers, I also kept one eye down on the ground to look at all the wildflowers.  And there were a lot.  A beautiful variety of flowers, some familiar, but mostly new to me.
One of the familiar flowers was yarrow.  Quite a bit of it along the trail.  And this one reminded me of elegant clarkia at first, until I realized it was fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium).
I saw what I was sure was delicate rose foliage and a rosehip a little ways off the trail.  I asked my friend's uncle, our unofficial guide, who hikes often in the Bernese Oberland and grew up nearby if it could be a wild rose.  He said, no we were too high up for wild roses.  But then a little further up the trail we saw this.  I had in fact seen a wild rose.
Another pleasant surprise was this lily.  According to a book I found out at the hut we stayed at that night it was Lilium martagon, or Turk's cap lily.  Really beautiful and unexpected.
Here's some type of ranunculus.  My best guess is Ranunculus thora, but I'm not sure.
And a truly wonderful suprise was this little orchid.  It's definitely in the genus Dactylorhiza, but I'm not sure of the species.  It might be traunsteineri, but just as possible are incarnata, maculata, or fuchsii.  I'll try and do a little more digging.
More to come.