There’s something to be said for being in charge of your own fruit picking.
There’s something to be said for being in charge of your own fruit picking, unlike a visit to the supermarket, which often results in disappointment as you prize open your box of blackberries, only to find a handful already mouldy at the bottom. A visit to a pick-your-own (PYO) farm, however, will have you walking through luscious green fields, swinging a punnet in one hand whilst the other grazes over fresh crops of strawberries and blackberries with your fingertips eager to get picking. You then leave for home with a perfect collection of fruit, all tasting so wonderful and fresh that you’re tempted to eat half the punnet before you’ve even arrived back. The best bit about picking your own fruit is that you don’t even have to trudge far from London for this invigorating and fun vitamin-enriched experience. All over the outskirts of the city, there are hundreds of pick-your-own farms, waiting for you to start picking the juiciest of the crops.
Of course, in addition to the benefits of taste and freshness, the lack of packaging and transport also means a visit to a pick-your-own farm is a much more eco-friendly alternative to the supermarket. And don’t forget the fact that you’re doing a good deed by supporting local farmers and consequently encouraging the production of regional produce.
It’s important to remember that each farm has different crops with variable seasons. It’s common to find several varieties of each fruit. For example in June you can find the popular Elsanta strawberries and then from July to August, the larger firmer varieties; Florence and Symphony are in abundance. Plump blackberries and raspberries are ripe for picking in late July, along with blackcurrants and redcurrants. Most of the farms also grow vegetables, such as courgettes, runner beans, marrows and pumpkins. By calling up the farm beforehand to check what’s available, you could in theory pick all the necessary ingredients needed to rustle up a tasty supper. With fruit and veg this fresh, not much else needs to be added to ensure flavour.
Top picking tips:
1) Always call before you go to a pick-your-own farm to check which fruits and vegetables are available.
2) Check to see if the farm supplies containers otherwise you will have to bring your own.
3) Don’t expect to stuff yourself full of berries whilst picking, so bring along snacks and water to keep you fuelled.
4) Remember that smaller berries often pack in more flavour and that unripe berries will not ripen once picked.
5) The best time to pick berries is early in the morning when it’s cool. This way they tend to keep for longer.
6) Don’t wash the berries until you are ready to use them. This will only encourage mould.
7) If you do end up picking too many berries, just pop them in the freezer or even better, make some jam!
Pick-your-own farms near London
National Winner of PYO Farm of the Year for 2009, this farm is set amidst 50 acres of beautiful rolling countryside and yet it is easily accessible from the M25 or a short walk from Cockfosters tube station. It grows twenty different crops including several varieties of berries, table-top strawberries and also vegetables. Facilities include a picnic area and an onsite shop selling ice creams and cold drinks.
Open Tues – Sun: 9am – 5.30pm (Last Entry 5.00pm).
(www.parksidefarmpyo.co.uk 020 8367 2035 Parkside Farm, Hadley Road, Enfield, Middlesex, EN2 8LA)
This family run farm has been going since 1978. They grow strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, plums, apples and a selection of vegetables. The onsite shop sells produce from local suppliers, such as jams, cakes, quince products and sausages. Open Tues-Sun: 10am – 6pm.
(www.copasfarms.co.uk (01753) 652727 Copas Farm, Calves Lane Farm, Billet Lane, Iver, Buckinghamshire, SL0 0LU)
Crockford Bridge Farm
The farm has twenty different types of fruit and vegetables available for picking. The farm shop is a foodie’s paradise, stocking homemade cakes, breads and pies, farmhouse cheeses, smoked produce, meats and fish, gourmet foods and a vast selection of unusual confectionery. If that’s not enough then indulge yourself in the onsite ice-cream parlour and coffee shop. Open Mon – Weds: 10am -5.30pm, Tues – Fri: 10am – 6pm, Sat: 9am – 6pm and Sun: 10am – 5pm.
(www.crockfordbridgefarm.co.uk 01932 853 886 New Haw Road, Addlestone, Nr. Weybridge, Surrey KT15 2BU)
Award-winning PYO farm, garden centre and shop. There are forty different crops of fruit and vegetables and 5 types of flowers available for picking. Make sure you take a look at the mouth-watering range of specialty and locally sourced cheese, as well as free-range meat, fresh bread and handmade soups and pies in the farm shop. There is also a restaurant serving sumptuous home-style cooking. Garsons regularly hold food events and a membership card is also available entitling you to 10% discount. Open Mon- Sat:
9am – 6pm and
Sun: 11am – 5pm.
(www.garsons.co.uk 01372 464389 Garsons,Winterdown Road, Esher, Surrey, KT10 8LS)
Spencers Farm Shop
A family run fruit farm and shop selling over 900 specialist foods and their very own farm pressed apple juice. Tayberries and loganberries are also available for picking alongside table-top strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Visit the coffee shop for a range of home made products, scones and light lunches. Open Mon – Sat: 9am - 6pm and Sun: 10am to 5pm.
(www.spencersfarmshop.co.uk, 01787 269476 Spencers Farm Shop, Wickham Fruit Farm, Wickham St Pauls, Halstead, Essex, CO9 2PX)
Hawkswick Fruit Farm
Berries are the focus of this farm, which grows five different varieties of strawberries and raspberries as well as blackberries, gooseberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants. Ice-cream and cold drinks are also available on site. Open Tues - Fri: 10am – 6pm and
Saturday – Sunday: 9am – 6pm
(www.hawkswickfruit.co.uk, 01727 831224 Harpenden Road, St.Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 6JG)
Easily accessible from the M4, this farm grows a wide variety of berries and vegetables, including rhubarb, marrows, runner beans, spinach and beetroot. There is a picnic area for you to savour the fruits of your labour. Open Mon – Sat: 9am - 6pm
(www.graysfarm.co.uk, O118 978 5386, Grays Farm, Heathlands Road, Wokingham, Berkshire RG40 3AN)
For further information on pick your own farms in the UK visit www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk
Written by: Leila Sarraf