A-Z of picking your own

Get a taste of some country life this summer with our ultimate guide to picking your own
A is for Air miles. Picking your own fruit is a great way of cutting down on air-freighted food. In fact, the only fruit miles you’ll clock up are the ones you make to the farm.

B is for Budget and beans. Picking seasonal fruits and vegetables by hand is typically much cheaper than supermarket shopping because you’re removing most of the labour and packaging costs. Feel free to taste-test to exercise your own quality control. Lots of farms offer broad beans for picking. They are best picked when young and tender, although fatter ones can be good for soups. Broad beans are in season from June to mid September.

C is for City picking. You don’t need to live in the heart of the country to enjoy picking your own. There are about 1000 pick your own farms in the UK, which are mainly situated on the outskirts of cities.

D is for Drying. Drying fruit is an easy way to preserve your pickings - the natural sticky sweetness of dried fruits can also be a tasty treat for kids.

E is for Eating on the job. Most farmers expect you to have a bit of a nibble as you work, but people who eat more than they buy could be asked to leave. Reportedly some PYO farms have had to close down because of too much eating on the job.

F is for Freezing and flowers. Picking seasonal products for freezing can be a good way of stocking up on cheap, fresh fruit and vegetables. To catch them at their best it’s a good idea to get them home and in the freezer within a three-hour period. Currants and raspberries both freeze well whole; strawberries, which don't, can be crushed or puréed for use in fruity puds and ices. Some farms have an option of picking your own wild flowers; these will normally be recurring flowers or ones that naturally reseed themselves. The pick your own flower season usually runs from late May to mid October.

G is for Gooseberries. This versatile fruit is in season from May to September and is great in puddings. If you’re planning to cook them, try to pick them slightly under ripe; if you’re eating them raw choose berries that are soft to the touch. For more tips and advice check out our guide to gooseberries.

H is for Homemade cakes and home-grown fruit. Most PYO farms are now home to cafes where you can indulge in well earned homemade cakes, local juices and ciders. And if all that picking your own gets you inspired, why not give it a try at home? With food prices soaring growing your own fruit and vegetables is economical as well as eco-friendly.For more tips and advice check out our guide to growing your own.

I is for Interactive map. To find your nearest PYO farm, fruit listings and opening hours check out Pick Your Own.

J is for Jams and pickles. Jams, pickles and chutneys are a great way to use your own-picked goodies - why not try out some of these tasty recipes ideas:
No-cook strawberry jam recipe
Apricot and ginger chutney
Homemade tomato chutney

K is for Kids. Picking your own can be a fun family day out, and is a great hands-on activity for kids. Remember to show them how to pick carefully so they don’t hurt themselves, pick bruised or over-ripe fruits, or damage the plants or trees.

L is for Local farmers. PYO farm shops often sell a number of other fresh products that have been supplied by local farmers, such as cured meats, eggs, pickles and cheeses.

M is for Maintain the countryside. Giving your support to small PYO farms help to stimulate local rural economies and increase the popularity of local products.

N is for Nature and nurture. Picking your own is a great way of reconnecting yourself with the food you eat. It also provides much needed support to local farmers.
It is estimated by Lantra that 15,900 farming jobs are being lost every year and that 38% of the agricultural workforce is expected to retire within the next 10 years.

O is for Organic. Picking your own doesn’t make your fruit and vegetables organic but it will mean they are extra fresh, with no air miles. Organic pick your own farms are actually quite few and far between, so it is best to check around first.

P is for Packaging. Cutting down on excess packaging is another environmental plus of picking your own. You can even bring your own basket or reusable bag to transport your goodies.

Q is for Queues. If you want to beat the crowds and guarantee rich pickings try to time your visit for later in the week, as the fields tend to be busiest at weekends.

R is for Rhubarb, raspberries and recipes. From summer puddings to rhubarb crumbles there are plenty of delicious recipes to turn your home-picked products into delicious home-made treats. How about...
Summer pudding
Rhubarb and strawberry crumble
Gooseberry and elderflower vanilla fools
Blackcurrant and mint sorbet

S is for Seasons and strawberries. The pick your own season usually runs from May to September, but farm shops selling their own produce are normally open all year round. The strawberry season is best from May to August, but this can vary depending on the weather. There are currently more than 600 varieties of strawberries that differ in flavour, size and texture.

T is for Technique. If you’re picking soft fruit try not to pull off their stalks as you pick, as this reduces the shelf life of the fruit. Instead, grip it behind the head and sever the stalk with your fingernails.

U is for Unwind. Why not take a well-earned break from your pickings and have a picnic on site,
so you can enjoy the countryside as you eat.

V is for Variety and vitamins. It’s not just strawberries and raspberries up for grabs, some pick your own farms have up to 40 pickings on offer - from cherries to courgettes.Picking your own can also be good news for your vitamin intake - eight strawberries contain as much vitamin c as an orange.

W is for Weather. Checking the weather before you plan a pick your own trip is advisable. Rain and wind or even strong sun can make working outside uncomfortable. The ideal days to look out for are warm but slightly overcast.
X is for Xmas trees. Many PYO farms also supply Christmas trees in winter and some may even let you dig up one yourself. If you make sure that the roots are still attached to the tree you can replant it at a later date.

Y is for Yoghurt. Why not mix your own picked fruit with home-made yoghurt from the farm shop to make a healthy and nutritional snack. Our favourite is this lemon curd and yoghurt fool (just swap the Greek yoghurt for your home-made variety).

Z is for Zing. To catch your fruit and vegetables at their freshest and tastiest check out Eat the Seasons for a month by month list of what’s good when.
You may also be interested in...
60 second guide to... Food miles
How to... grow your own
60 second guide to... Farmers' markets

taken from the BBC green website