I don’t know how common PYO (Pick Your Own) farms are outside the UK but if not much, I pity everyone else in the world. PYO are an absolutely wonderful concept, only possibly second to hunting for your own food – that is a joke. Farms cultivating fruit and vegetable crops open some or one of them to the general public to come and pick, then pay only for the goods by weight on exit.
Strawberries are the most popular cultivar to pick one’s own, then raspberries and other berries and currants. But I have recently discovered a PYO farm in my locality which offers practically all their produce for picking, changing the menu as new fruit or veg ripen. There is at the moment a bumper crop of insanely delicious strawberries, black- and redcurrants and raspberries as well as carrots, onions, beetroot, potatoes and broad beans. All of them there to pick!
There are some really posh PYO farms, especially in Cornwall, usually with only seasonal fruit on offer and the rest of the crops sold in the adjacent farm shops and cooked for the menu of the restaurant on site. One of those was where I first saw strawberries growing on the first floor: planted in containers mounted on eye-level shelves. It’s called the tabletop system and it features strawberry as a HIGH hanging fruit. Who knew?
My local PYO farm has strawberries traditionally lolling about in straw-covered soil but probably the best I’ve ever eaten. And the most uplifting thing about it is seeing how popular it is.
Saturday morning, it is almost impossible to park. Whole families trundle along with wheelbarrows (yes, wheelbarrows are available to pickers), and it isn’t just a punnet of strawberries they are after: I’ve seen bunches of beetroot and onions in those barrows, and Dads bravely wielding forks to pull their own potatoes! How amazing! And there I was, rubbishing people for thinking that food grew in supermarkets while they were all out in the field getting their hands dirty!
I wholeheartedly advise you to check out where your local PYO farm might be because it’s not only fun but excellent value too.
And then all you need is a handful of recipes for the so local and peerlessly seasonal loot.
If you get beetroot, don’t chuck the greens but make a beet leaf tart. The beetroot themselves will be delicious raw, in a herby salad.
If they have beans, cook them into a garlicky side dish, or with chorizo and bulgur. If it’s broad beans, they’ll be delicious on a bruschetta.
Don’t miss kohlrabi! A rare sight in supermarkets but my farm had them for picking, and a kohlrabi slaw is fantastic. Or maybe heads of spring cabbage will be on offer, to make into a salad or a stir fry.
And the berries, of course, which are the key produce at PYO’s. Or redcurrants to bake into cakes or turn into jelly. For plenty recipes featuring berries, go to my Recipe Finder by Ingredient. Happy picking your own!