IT'S THE WEEKEND: Why cream of the crop is best picked from the field
4:40pm Saturday 12th October 2013 in News
TV cook Mary Berry and shows like The Great British Bake-Off have all helped to revive the trend of picking your own fruit and vegetables at fruit farms across Gwent and using them to make jams, sauces and tarts.
The tradition goes back to the Victorian era when market growers near London in the 19th century advertised country outings to their fields so city dwellers could pick their own veg and have a home-cooked farm meal.
It enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s when demand for having access to fresher less-processed food grew and more recently as a result of an upsurge in buying produce locally.
Abergavenny trader, Pasquale Lenza, 84, who has been in the business for more than 25 years runs a pick your own fruit farm and shop at Tredillion, at Llantilio Pertholey on the outskirts of Abergavenny.
Mr Lenza, who is originally from Salerno, Italy, ran the farm at Tredillion Park for its owners for several years before taking over the business in 1985.
He spends the autumn and winter planting the fields and tending to them. He opens up the farm shop at the start of June to sell all the fruit and veg they have grown and stays open until the last of the apples have been collected in November.
Trade depends on the weather, but most weekends are busy during the strawberry season.
As well as offering offering pick your own, the farm shop sells freshly-picked fruit and veg which makes the produce much cheaper.
He said: “The best thing about fruit farms is that everything is picked but there is also the advantage of getting a wide variety of fruit and veg, not always readily available in the bigger shops.
“Our produce includes raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries, plums, garlic, spinach, parsley, broad-beans and peas – basically everything you can grow.”
“In June and during the summer we have soft fruits available such as strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, damsons and pears.”
Mr Lenza said the most popular fruits that are picked are the various types of berries, which can be used to make jams, sauces and pickles.
“At this time of year (September to mid-November) we move from the softer fruit to the harder fruits such as apples and pears.”
Just a few miles away his brother Peppe Lenza runs Llanvihangel Crucorney Pick Your Own Fruit and Veg farm. Mr Lenza has spent the past 50 years cultivating and growing a wide range of fruit, which people can pick themselves and veg that can be bought in the farm shop.
He said the fruit available at the time depends very much on the weather but is currently selling strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples and pears, which he has been picking since August.
“We grow a variety of produce from cabbage, to cauliflower, garlic, damsons, gooseberries, runner beans and filberts.”
Mr Lenza’s produce is seasonal and straight from the orchard on the morning of the day of purchase.
Stephen Terry, chef and owner of The Hardwick at Abergavenny believes it’s important to support local producers and a great way for the family to spend a morning.
He said: “Pick Your Own fruit farms are a great place to take the kids and for them to learn about where fruit and veg comes from. The Lenza’s have been growing fantastic fruit and veg for many years and are passionate about what they do.
“Whilst many regularly use the supermarkets it’s important to support local producers and nice to eat foods that are straight from the source and haven’t travelled.”
“We always try to use local produce on our menu, where-ever possible, Mr Terry said people shouldn’t be afraid of trying out ideas with the fruit picked, using recipes or the internet.
He said: “There are plenty of things you can do. We’re in the season for asparagus and raspberries which are good until mid-October, as well as apples and pears.
“You could make an apple tart, crumble or even a sauce to go with your roast dinner. You can also freeze the sauce if you don’t want to eat it now or caramelise apples in a pan to serve with rice pudding, which is something we serve at the Hardwick.
“Another popular dish is poached pear with panna cotta or pear tart. There are some great recipes for apple and pear juices too.”
Mr Terry said the fruit could be used to make jams or ice-cream and can be frozen.
He added: “It’s satisfying when you make something from scratch and have picked the ingredients yourself. See what’s in season and have a go at making something.”
TIPS for picking your own Pack for a day trip Bring containers to pick and carry the fruit and veg home.
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