This summer I’ve had the chance to visit two farms outside London. We went by train and walked from the station a short distance to acres of brilliant orchards, fields and bushes laden with the bounty of the season. It was so inspiring to walk around picking gorgeous produce from the earth where it was grown – instead of mediocre stuff packaged in too much plastic in the grocery bin!
The first time was on one of the hotter-than-hades days we had this summer in London. Dripping with sweat, my pal Therese and I picked buckets of raspberries, oozing, ripe strawberries, corn and beets. It was a bit of a hateful trek back to the station with bags heaving on our shoulders, drenched from the heat but I made the best strawberry pie and tucked raspberries in the freezer for later. The corn was the best I’ve eaten in England ever.
As summer faded into fall, the farm was beckoning again. This time ripe plums weighed down branches like jewels, apples perfumed the orchards and fields of pumpkins colored the landscape.
The relief and joy of being out of the city and in fields of produce ready for the picking could be the reason why I came home with about 40 pounds of stuff – everything from cooking and eating apples to plums and quince to green beans and more corn. Yikes!
It’s been fun exploring recipes and plotting how to use all of it. Like a squirrel putting away nuts for winter, I’ve been canning, making jam and freezing the harvest for the cold months ahead.
The PYO farms are open until the end of October and many of them have family activities on the weekends like corn mazes, hayrides and pumpkin picking. Check out www.pyo.co.uk to get a list of farms in your area. You can also filter your search by type of produce. The farms I went to were Secrett’s in Surrey and Hewitt’s in Kent, both about 1.5 hours from central London by train and foot.
It’s well worth the effort to get your hands on the freshest fruit and veg out there and it soothes the soul too.