Plan Your Seasonal PYO
Fresh fruit and vegetables, pulled straight from the ground or plucked from a tree have a certain magic about them that can be lost once the supermarkets get hold, clean them up, and package them to sell. Of course, they are the same fruit, the same veg, but somewhere in the process, something has been lost. This is why so many of us love to grow our own.
The problem is not all of us have the space or the time to get the results we’re really looking for. The solution, however, is a simple one: why not try your hand at picking your own fruit and vegetables from the field or tree? Not only will you get the freshest produce (at good prices), but you will be able to see exactly what is in season, and start planning your menus accordingly.
Most PYOs, although running all year round as working farms, are only open to the public during the May to October months because the fruits and vegetables grown during this time are more abundant than they can sell themselves, or to the shops. So although your carrots and kale (January); leeks (February); cabbage (March); cauliflower (April); potatoes and red cabbage (November); and Brussels sprouts (December) might have to be picked by someone else (or grown in your own veggie patch), during the rest of the year you can pick away to your heart’s content.
We’ve gathered a selection of Kentish PYO farms for you to enjoy.
When: Early May to July
Where: Juicy, tart, and full of flavour, gooseberries are strangely often forgotten when it comes to listing out the perfect fruits. In Kent, we are blessed with the right climate to grow them in abundance, so when you go picking your own, don’t forget to look out for them, especially at Foxendown Fruit Farm (www.meophamfruit.co.uk / 01474 815080) in Meopham, near Gravesend.
When: Late May to late July
Where: Most PYO farms host strawberries, as they are so popular, and fun to pick (and eat or bake with!). Chilton Manor Farm (www.chiltonmanorfarm.co.uk / 01795 425963 near Sittingbourne is a family-owned-and-run farm and farm shop that is open from May until October each year, and the first crop it produces every year is strawberries.
What: Loganberries, redcurrants, raspberries
When: Mid-June to mid-July
Where: Although only available for a very short time, these delicious fruits are well worth picking. Try Garden House Orchards (www.facebook.com/PYOgardenhouse / 01303 260163) in Hythe for some succulent and tasty loganberries, raspberries, and redcurrants for you to make into jam, bake with, or just eat as they are.
When: Early July to early August
Where: Felderland Farm (www.felderland-pyo.co.uk) in Worth prides itself on having a huge range of PYO products available in its 23 acres, but it is the cherries grown here that are really special. They outnumber every other type of fruit and veg, and although they are only around for a short while, if you can get your hands on them, you’ll certainly be able to taste the difference.
When: Early July to early September
Where: If you want to relive some of those easy childhood days we all loved, then what better (and more delicious) way to do it than to pick blackberries? At Lower Ladysden Farm (www.lowerladysden.co.uk) in Goudhurst, blackberries are just one of the many freshly grown, seasonal fruit and vegetables available.
When: Mid-July to early September
Where: Another often forgotten fruit, plums are delicious, versatile, and found at Hewitts Farm (www.hewittsfarm.co.uk) just outside of Orpington. With 78 acres of farmland, you can always be sure of the plumpest, ripest fruit, and perfectly ready veg here. There are different varieties of plums to choose from at Hewitts, so do some research first, otherwise you won’t be able to choose.
When: Mid-July to late October
Where: Apples are amazing. Not only are they great incorporated into desserts and main dishes, but they are also the perfect hunger-busting (healthy) snack. There is no getting away from the good old apple, and especially in Kent, where our orchards are such a huge part of our wonderful county. At Pippins Fruit Farm (www.pippinsfarm.co.uk / 01892 824569) in Pembury, apples are at the heart of the business. It even has an apple day each October (which raises money for charity), and produces its own apple juice and cider.
When: Early August to early September
Where: At Stanhill Farm (www.stanhillfarm.co.uk) in Wilmington, near Dartford, there is enough sweetcorn to satisfy even the hungriest of appetites. And there are plenty of other goodies to pick as well. Plus, in July, the amazing Maize Maze opens – pick up a clue, and try to solve the puzzles that will take you to the centre. For the very little ones (under 3s), there is a mini maze too.
Where: In recent years, there has been an explosion of pumpkin-picking fun in the lead up to Halloween, and some farms have taken it to the extreme, setting up huge pumpkin patches so everyone can pick their very own pumpkin to carve. One such farm is Beluncle Farm (www.riversidefarmers.co.uk) in Hoo. Wear your Wellies and prepare to hunt for your perfect pumpkin, as you make use of the farm’s wheelbarrows. You can have a traditional orange one, or try something different and go for a pink, white, green, or even blue variety.