Friday, 17 June 2011

Picking Our Own...

It came as a lovely surprise to be invited to go and have a look around Millets Farm Centre's Pick Your Own operation.  We had been intending to go strawberry picking but not actually got around to it so this was the encouragement we needed. 

We went to the centre at Frilford, Oxon, which is well signposted off the A420 Oxford to Swindon road.  There's also a centre at Evesham Country Park and we hope to meet friends there over the summer holidays. 

On arrival, it was clear that there has been a lot of thought about the site layout.  We quickly located the PYO area and made our way there.  Having collected a basket, we saw ahead of us well signposted areas that were looking very appealing.  The sun was shining and there were some lovely cumulus clouds about so it looked set to be a fine afternoon.

The first crops we saw were redcurrants and they looked (and tasted) wonderful.  It seems not many people know what to do with redcurrants - how about making jelly (to go with lamb or in red cabbage at Christmas) or sorbet?

Next we moved onto gooseberries where the bushes were bursting with fruit... Sous Chef J was most taken with the informational signs and, being a keen golfer, was surprised to read that competitive gooseberries used to be grown that were the size of  golf ball!

There were also rows and rows of blackberries (Sous Chef J was pleased to note they were the thornless variety) but these would not be ready to harvest for a few weeks yet.

Next was a field that had recently been planted with brussels sprouts (these will be ready in time for our Christmas meal), runner and broad beans.   Where birds are a problem with broad beans, they were being outwitted by the use of sheeting to stop them from rooting out the newly planted beans... which is something they do 'for fun'... they don't even bother to eat the beans.  However some young rabbits had been eating the sprouts and, it seems, enjoying them rather a lot.

Having looked at where the maize (corn on the cob) was growing, the next crop that we saw was leeks... although, in truth, they looked more like chives... however, they will be ready to crop later in the year.  Next door though, the beetroot was looking almost ready to harvest... and the leafy spinach alongside was being picked.  Asparagus has been allowed to go to flower and will convert all the energy it gets from the sunshine into starch before storing it over the winter and using it to make lovely new spears next year... yum.

Anyone for cherries?!
Then, we were in for a real treat... there was a netted area of fruit trees that were laden with the most delicious looking cherries... the trees were dripping with them and we were allowed first access to pick the fruit.

There was so much fruit... and the cherries were very tasty.
Which to pick first?

The next fruit trees were plums (which, again, were laden with fruit) that will be ready to gather in a month or so.  Then the apples... some lovely bramleys were growing well.  The farm presses and makes its own apple juice as this is a good way to make use of the less perfect-looking fruits.

We then were taken to see rhubarb and carrots and after that it was a trot along the parsnips to the poly tunnels. Here we were able to pick raspberries and strawberries.  The strawberries we chose to pick from were grown in coir bags, which are set on benches about 100cm above the ground.  Great for seeing your "prey" and selecting the juiciest fruits!  

However, Sous Chef J only had eyes for the raspberries and, having done some insect spotting, he was ready to grab whatever fruits he spotted. 

It was a very productive afternoon and were delighted with the produce we'd been able to pick.  Our basket was groaning with fresh fruit and veg as you can see.  Best of all, it was competely gluten free!

 The function room above the restaurant was the venue for a well earned cuppa and some snacks.  Having asked the manager we were supplied with a couple of Mrs Crimbles individually wrapped cakes.  Sous Chef J was delighted with his macaroon.

Finally, we were given a super goodie bag with items from the farm shop and lots of interesting leaflets about upcoming activities.  

Sous Chef J is keen to return to try out the Alice in Wonderland Maize Maze with some pals in a few weeks...
Millets Farm Centre surprised us because there is so much to do there. Sous Chef J checked out the play area and liked the roundabout very much (although did comment it's not accessible to those in a wheelchair).

The farm animal zoo, trout lake, Frosts's Garden Centre, Farm Shop and Restaurant are things we will investigate further on our next visit.

We reckon it's a good venue for an outing even on a rainy day as you can still pick the fruit in the poly tunnels without getting too muddy or wet.  Plus, you'd be bound to have the pick of the crop if others aren't as hardy.

If you need further information, then check out Millets Farm Centre's website  it has all the up-to-date info about which crops are in season and what activities are going on.

No comments:

Post a Comment