Sick of supermarket plastic? Go straight to the root with a day of fruit and vegetable picking on these farms in and around London. As soon as the weather starts to warm, the pick-your-own season begins and stretches right through to the autumn. Whether you want to pluck summer-ripe berries, leafy greens and root veg or gather autumnal apples, pumpkins and squashes, these farms all have acres of PYO fields to keep you busy. Not only does a sunny day of fruit picking make a glorious, cobweb-blasting day trip from London, it's also a brilliant way to bump up your green credentials by picking up groceries without all the shrinkwrap and it'll keep the kids entertained (few a for hours anyway).
REMEMBER: Always ring up the farm or check their website before you visit to find out what produce is available as crop seasons change from year to year. And no eating while you pick, keep all your juicy finds in their punnets for weighing up.
RECOMMENDED: Outdoor London
One for the car-less Londoner (isn’t that 99 percent of us?!), this Enfield farm is in easy-ish reach of the city. Walk for 25 minutes when you get to Gordon Hill station and you’ll find this bit of green belt growing 20 different crops across its 50 acres. Strawberries are grown using a ‘table top’ system, so you don’t have to bend ’n’ pick like a sucker. Crops can be changeable, so always call ahead. Minimum spend is £4, and remember – no berry poppin’ in the fields.
Check crop availability ahead of your visit on 020 8367 2035 or www.parksidefarmpyo.co.uk.
Whatever your produce preference, this 78-acre family-run farm probably grows it. Over the summer months, you can pick everything from strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants to spinach, chard and beetroot. Right now there’s a glut of plums, runner beans, marrows and courgettes to pluck. Or, hold out until the beginning of autumn when the apples ripen and free tractor rides begin on Sundays.
Check crop availability ahead of your visit on 01959 534666 or www.hewittsfarm.co.uk.
Get your mitts on Crockford’s raspberries and blackberries, all ripe and juicy for August. Or, stick to August’s crop of sweetcorn. When you’re done, visit the on-site gelateria for ices made with own-grown fruits. The farm – set in 80 acres in West Surrey – is one of the oldest continually cultivated spots in the county and is mentioned in the ‘Doomsday Book’. Again, you’ll need to call ahead to find out what’s ripe.
Check crop availability ahead of your visit on 01932 853886 or www.crockfordbridgefarm.co.uk.
Run by brothers Toby and Max Williams, this 150-acre farm grows 20 to 30 varieties of fruit and vegetables. As the strawberry season comes to an end, you’ll find crops of courgettes, runner beans and carrots ready to harvest, while tomatoes, sweetcorn, beetroot and runner beans will be ripening soon. When your fingers are tired, take a turn around the farm’s huge maze, which has snaking paths carved into its maize fields.
Check crop availability ahead of your visit on 01322 669711 or www.stanhillfarm.co.uk.
The Thompson family have been running this Surrey farm as a pick-your-own for nearly 35 years. It’s a bigger operation than most, with its own restaurant, farm shop and garden centre, so you don’t have to do too much planning (though it’s a much easier day out if you have a car). It recently opened its orchards, so you can have your pick of bramley apples. Garsons also grows its strawberries table-top, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have your pick of late raspberries too. It’s £4 entry, which will be taken off your ‘pay-and-weigh’ bill at the end. There’s 155 acres to cover, so come with a plan of attack.
Check crop availability ahead of your visit on 01372 464389 or www.garsons.co.uk.
Noisy broods of chickens will greet your arrival at this wholesome soft fruit farm in Buckinghamshire (there’s the odd sheep too, but they mostly keep to themselves). There are raspberries and blackberries a-plenty and, towards the end of August, you can go and relieve the gnarly old apple and plum trees of their fruit. Everything sold the farm shop is grown on-site, even the honey (thanks to the onsite bee colony).
Check crop availability ahead of your visit on 01753 653064 or www.homecottagefarm.co.uk.
Better move quick if you want to pick your yield at this Hertfordshire farmland – the anticipated closing day for PYO is this Sunday (August 11) If all goes well, you can pay the £3 minimum to pack your punnet with as many of those end-of-the season strawbs as you can. There might just be a few redcurrants growing too, ready to fulfil their Christmas jelly destiny.
Check crop availability ahead of your visit on 01727 831224 or www.hawkswickfruit.co.uk.