By WENDY HARGREAVES
Is there anything better than plucking fresh summer fruit from a tree and scoffing it on the spot?
If you’re not lucky enough to have fruit trees in your back yard, head to one of Victoria’s wonderful pick-your-own orchards and get a taste of true freshness. Just don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.
- 474 Queens Rd, Wandin East, tickets here
- Famous for growing some of the biggest, sweetest cherries in Australia, CherryHill lets fruit fans loose on their orchard every day from November 30 until January 5 (except Christmas Day). The rows of cherry trees are perfect for picnics, and the farm shop sells delicious ice cream, cherry cider and cherry spritzer, all just an hour’s drive from Melbourne. Visitors must book tickets before arriving at the orchard ($35 for families, $15 for adults and $6 for children over three). Eat your fill of cherries, then pay $14/kg for your take-home haul. CherryHill’s Riseborough family has been growing the Christmassy stone fruit since 1940, and they can help you find the sweetest patches. If you can’t make it to the orchard, get fresh cherries delivered directly to your door from CherryHill’s online shop.
- 244 Shands Rd, Main Ridge, (03) 5634 7526
- Open daily on the Mornington Peninsula, Sunny Ridge will have big juicy strawberries ready to pick from November through to April or May every day from 9am to 5pm. Grab a 500g punnet ($10, or $5 for a 250g kid’s punnet) and hunt for the biggest, reddest strawberries in the patch, Remember that strawberries don’t ripen after picking, so avoid the light coloured fruit.
- Tooheys Rd, Pheasant Creek, 0407 313 975
- Raspberry farmer Gavin Malloy encourages visitors to taste the fruit as they pick, charging $22/kg for the take-home haul (or $20/kg if you bring your own container). Gavin says the fruit has been slower to ripen this year thanks to cooler spring weather, but he expects to open his farm to pick-your-own guests in mid-December. Call ahead to check if the farm is open.
- 69 Tudor Rd, Trafalgar South, (03) 56 347 526
- Organic berry farmer Phil Rowe says his strawberries are ripe and ready to pick, with raspberries ready to go by the second week of December. His farm in Gippsland’s Strzelecki Ranges is waiting for more sunny days to ripen the many blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and gooseberries. Sunny Creek is open daily during the Victorian summer school holidays, but outside that period it’s best to ring on the day to check availability. Entry is $8 ($6 for children), with a $17.50/kg charge for all picked fruit. Save room in your basket for home made preserves at the farm shop.
- 60 Schoolhouse Rd, Woori Yallock, 03 5964 7654
- Len Rayner and his family are the only farmers in Australia (and possibly the world) to offer pick-your-own every day of the year (except Christmas day). Dozens of visitors pass through their Yarra Valley orchards every day, taking a guided tractor ride to make sure they find the ripest stashes of fruit. The tours cost $32.50 for adults or $27.50 for seniors and children, with the bargain price of $27.50 for a family of four. Eat your fill on the guided tour, and pay $5/kg for your take-home fruit. Late spring pickings include red currants, oranges, lemonades, grapefruit, lemons, peaches, nectarines, loquats, mandarines and cumquats. Len says peaches and nectarines are now ready to pick, with plums and gooseberries expected to be ripe by mid-December. Visitors picked more than 300 tonnes of fruit last year. Make sure you leave room to try the farm’s home-made blood plum and blackberry ice cream, made with 50 per cent fruit.