It’s Pick-Your-Own Season in Southern New England
There are not many things that say summer in New England like picking your own fresh fruits and vegetables at our local Rhode Island and Massachusetts farms.
Until a few years ago, the only harvesting that I did was in my own small backyard garden. That all changed the first time I visited my favorite local farmstand to pick up some of their strawberries and opted to pick my own instead. After that first visit, I was hooked and I began to seek out other pick-your-own crops that were in my local area. The season in Southern New England runs from early June with strawberries and peas and wraps up with apple and pumpkin picking, usually until the first frost.
Local pick-your-own crops include:
- Strawberries – Early June
- Peas – Early June
- Flowers – Mid June and can last until frost in September
- Blueberries – Beginning of July
- Raspberries – Mid July
- Blackberries – August
- Peaches – August
- Apples – August until mid September depending on variety
- Pumpkins – Late September
All of the timing is approximate and can vary depending on the weather and the farm that you choose to visit. With such a variety to pick from (some local farms have several different pick-your-own crops), I’ve decided to share some information about a few of my favorite farms and orchards.
Perhaps my favorite spot where you can pick-your-own is Four Town Farm in Seekonk, MA. It is where I had my first picking experience and I am fortunate to live close so it is very convenient for me to pop by for a quick picking fix.
There is so much to look forward to at the beginning of summer in New England but one of my favorite things to do is to visit Four Town in June for strawberry picking. My husband and I have done this for several years and we have always found it to be a sort of “zen” experience. After all, how can you beat spending time outdoors in the June sunshine? We have found that it is best to avoid the crowds by going early in the day and during the week if possible. This year we were joined by our newest family picker, our two year old granddaughter. Not quite as “zen” with a two year old but so much more fun!!!
It is important to remember to care for your freshly picked strawberries correctly. Fresh strawberries will last for a week or more if properly cared for. This is how I care for mine:
- Place a clean dry paper towel into a glass airtight storage container.
- Place unwashed strawberries on top of the paper towel.
- Close the container and store in the refrigerator.
At Four Town Farm you can also pick peas which are in season at around the same time as strawberries and later in June you can begin to take advantage of the pick-your-own flowers. The flowers are great because as the summer moves along the variety changes.
For more information on the pick-your-own crops you can visit the Four Town Farm website listed above.
We just returned from a pick-your-own morning at the Rocky Point Blueberry Farm. They open for the season generally the first week of July and open daily (except for Fridays) at 7am. They remain open for blueberry picking until the crop has been picked – usually mid-August.
I think that I enjoy blueberry picking most of all. We tend to go early in the morning and it is so incredibly peaceful. The air is fresh and clean as we are in fields that sit about a quarter of a mile up a small hill from Narragansett Bay. The birds are chirping and active so early in the morning and best of all, the crowds are non-existent.
When you arrive at Rocky Point you will be instructed to grab a blue pail with a plastic bag liner. You are allowed to pick anywhere in the netted fields but as you enter the attendant can guide you to the fields and rows that have been less picked over. When you exit, your bag will be weighed and you can pay accordingly. We always opt for the “Frequent Picker” card. The more you pick, the price per pound goes down and we are always good for a few trips during the season.
There are different preferences and styles of blueberries and blueberry picking. Some people prefer sweet and very ripe and others prefer tart. Rocky Point has six varieties of cultivated high bush type berries. Some plants can grow up to 7ft tall. Sampling of the bushes is allowed as every bush can differ. Picking styles also differ as my husband and I can attest. You can stay at one bush and pick it clean like my husband or wander from bush to bush in search of the most ripe plump berries like I tend to do.
I store my freshly picked blueberries in much the same way as strawberries. Instructions are listed above. They should last for a week to ten days if treated this way.
An interesting side note on Rocky Point Blueberry Farm is the annual crop of pawpaws. These fruit trees grow in the Midwest and South and were planted 20 years ago on this farm as a test of their marketability in New England. They are a fleshy fruit that they say tastes like a combination of mango, banana and pineapple. This is not a pick-your-own fruit but a very rare and popular fruit that is available for purchase at Rocky Point beginning in September. Demand is high for this fruit when it is in season and I have heard that people drive for hours to get them. I have to admit that I have never tried one. Check out the Rocky Point website for more information.
If you would like more information on Rocky Point Blueberry Farm you can visit their website listed above.
Sweetberry Farm in Middletown offers a bit of everything for the pick-your-own adventurer. They grow strawberry, raspberry(summer and fall varieties), blackberry, blueberry, peaches, apples, sunflowers and pumpkin crops that are available for picking throughout the summer and fall seasons.
I enjoy visiting Sweetberry in the summer for the pick-your-own flowers and especially to see the sunflowers. Though sunflowers are not particularly difficult to grow yourself, I love to visit this farm to see all of the sunflowers growing in the fields.
Sweetberry is also known for their Christmas trees. After Thanksgiving, you can visit the farm and have a tree freshly cut for the season. They do not offer tagging.
It is recommended that you contact Sweetberry before visiting to pick-your-own as they have a large variety of crops and do occasionally close fields to picking for a day or two for ripening.
For more information on picking your own crops at Sweetberry Farm you can visit their website listed above.
When the weather starts to cool it is time to think about picking apples. My favorite fall pick-your-own apple adventure is a trip to Narrow Lane Orchard in North Kingstown. They have a huge variety of apples (approximately 13 varieties) that are ready for picking at different times from early August to the end of October. They do grow peaches and nectarines at Narrow Lane and they may be available for pick-your-own depending on how plentiful the harvest is anticipated to be.
For more information about Narrow Lane Orchards you can visit their website above.
Apple Picking Options
There are many well known local apple orchards where you can pick-your-own. I have not tried picking at any of these yet but I have heard good things from others that have visited some of the orchards listed below:
Jaswell Farm – 50 Swan Rd, Smithfield, 401-231-9043
Steere Orchard – 150 Austin Ave, Greenville, 401-949-1456
Barden Family Orchard – 56 Elmdale Rd, North Scituate, 401-934-1413
Sunset Orchard – 244 Gleaner Chapel Rd, North Scituate, 401-934-1900
Tricks of the Pick-Your-Own Trade
Picking your own fruits and vegetables can be a great solo or family activity. As my husband and I have been doing this for years, I have a few tricks of the trade to share.
- Dress for success – Pay close attention to the weather as it can be hot out in some of these open fields.
- Four legged friends – Check in with the farm that you are planning to visit as some have restrictions on bringing man’s best friends to help pick.
- Young pickers – This is a fabulous family friendly activity but children should be monitored at all times.
- Timing is everything – When making a plan to pick-your-own it is wise to check with the farm to be certain that they are open for picking. It can happen that picking may randomly close on a day to allow the fruits and vegetables to ripen a bit.
- Take care – Freshly picked fruits and vegetables can require some special care after picking to prolong freshness. If you are uncertain what to do, the staff at any of these farms are more than happy to share information on caring for your picked fruit.
Whatever your pick-your-own crop of choice, take some time this season or next to get out there and help with the harvest. You will not be disappointed. You will get so much pleasure out of the time spent outdoors and even more enjoyment from the delicious dishes that you will create using the just picked fresh fruits and vegetables.