You may not have the time or skill to raise your own crops in a backyard garden, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the satisfactions and taste of a delicious harvest. Nearly every state has a number of farms where you can pick your own produce and pay for it by the bushel or by the pound. There are even pick-your-own farms in ultra-urban Southern California. These farms are helping Angelinos create a new Los Angeles culinary tradition.
We’ve put together a few tips to help you get the most out of your day out on the farm.
Before You Go
Depending upon how much fruit you pick, you may have a lot of fruit to deal with after your harvest. We recommend having a plan in place on how you’ll handle it. Whether you are preserving, freezing, or making jams and jellies, you need to decide before the produce comes home. Get necessary equipment ready and make room in the freezer. Waiting may cause the fruit to lose quality or go bad altogether. If you are stuck for ideas, you can turn to the online cooking community for help.
When to Go
Each area of the country will have its own growing seasons and produce available, but this calendar can help you decide when to go and what to pick. Always call or email a pick-your-own farm to check their hours and the crops they have available.
- March-April: Asparagus, lettuce, greens
- May-June: Strawberries, squash
- June-July: Cherries, spinach
- June-August: Blueberries, blackberries
- July-September: Peaches, figs, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, sweet corn
- July-October: Raspberries
- August: Figs, fall raspberries, early apples
- September-October: Apples, grapes
- October: Late apples, pumpkins
- December: Christmas trees
What to Bring
You’ll be out for a day trip so pack all the necessities, especially with kids. You’ll want to bring snacks, drinks, sunscreen, a camera, and hand wipes.
You’ll also need to dress appropriately for working on a farm: old shoes or boots and old clothes. Wide-brimmed hats are excellent sun protection. Long sleeves and long pants made from a light material protect from the sun as well as insects and thorny plants. In the fall, wear layers to match the unpredictable weather.
Most importantly, don’t forget your containers for picking and carrying. Many farms provide them, but usually for a fee.
When You Get Home
Keep the fruit cool. A refrigerator is best, but a cool fruit cellar will also work. Now is the time to enact the plan that you made before you went to the farm. Start the canning and preserving process as quickly as you can. You will want to capture the fruit at its peak of freshness. Your preparation and planning will pay off when you open a jar of fresh preserves or pickles in the middle of winter.
Be sure to make a plan and to follow the rules of the farm you are visiting. With just a little bit of planning and some good old-fashioned hard work, picking your own produce can be a great adventure for the whole family.
This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Los Angeles, California. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Los-Angeles for more information.
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