After a fire-tarnished seasonlast year, NSW farmers are back with bumper crops just waiting to be picked and enjoyed. The time is ripe to gather your gang for a jam-packed day of juicy fruit-picking.
All you really need is a hat, good shoes, sunscreen and a few hours of your time. Most pick-your-own operations offer buckets for collecting. You simply pay an entry fee, fill your container (sometimes your face – some venues have no limit to how much fruit you can eat in the orchard) then pay for the fruit you take home. This summer is a little different, thanks to Covid-19. Many farms require bookings, so check their websites or call them before you leave for availability and further details.
Known for its bountiful orchids and all things apples, the lush lands of Bilpin offer two great pick-your-own (PYO) venues. Visit Bilpin Fruit Bowl on any weekend to catch the last of peach season. Yellow peaches, white peaches, zucchinis, plums, and squash are on offer for picking, with apples to start on the 26th January. Get your peaches and plums while you can at Pine Crest Orchid, where they have been doing a roaring trade. Pears and apples are to start soon, and come-autumn, raspberries, chestnuts and walnuts will be available.
If you've run into rain, you can pick juicy red fruits under two hectares of greenhouse at Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries. Because of this, they're not running out of either fruit any time soon, and you can buy a wheelbarrow-full of strawberry and tomato-related condiments from their adjoined cafe, Cafe Red.
There is always fun to be had at Glenbernie Orchard (AKA Darkes). If you're looking for a high-end experience, book their PYO white peaches package this weekend from $60 pp. It includes a guided tractor ride, and photo-taking. They will start PYO apple tours on the 27th January. Check out their shop and find everything from fresh fruit to cider and deli goods.
If you need a break from wine-tasting in Orange, visit Huntley Berry Farm; a non-for-profit disability enterprise offering a wide range of berries and vegetables to pick throughout the year. Right now, you can go hard picking blackberries and raspberries for $20 per kilo, and strawberries for $15 per kilo. In February, they will be offering organic capsicum zucchini, cucumber, tomato, eggplant, and squash to pick. Kids will be thrilled at their gang of farm animals and the home-made berry ice blocks sold at their cafe and store.
If you're making your way up to the Northern Rivers, take a Bucca Valley Blueberries, just north of Coffs Harbour. You can rock up here without a booking seven days a week. As well as taking home buckets of hand-picked blueberries, they also sell home-grown garlic, and local honey. Feed their friendly turtles while you're there, too!
In season soon...
At Kookootonga Chestnut and Walnut Farm, just near Bilpin, the farm gate is due to open for PYO walnuts and chestnuts in March to April. Slip and some gloves and go nuts (pun completely intended) on picking up all the prickly burrs you see. The farm has been family owned since 1897, so you will be in the hands of experts.
Ford's Farms in Laughtondale is a paradise for citrus lovers. Specialising in mandarins, pickers can also expect to find lemons, limes, oranges, cumquats and makrut limes hanging from their trees across winter. Buy their condiments at their shop, say hello to their friendly sheep, and take advantage of their picnic facilities for a day of fun. Further south in Canoelands, you can still catch the last of the blueberry season at Canoelands Orchard. In March, apples, tomatoes and eggplants will be available for picking.
Pretend you're on holiday on the Mediterranean while picking sun-ripened figs at Norland Fig Orchard. When their second crop is ready in mid February, drop by for some fig picking and guided tours of the Orchard. Feel free to bring your furry friend along with you, as they are pet-friendly. They also are stocked up with fig-related condiments available for purchase.