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The National Student Microadventure Challenge: Pick Your Own

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Pick Your Own: it’s something lots of us did as children, continuing a tradition going back generations, but I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I did it. With a spare afternoon, the sun shining and a hankering for some fresh produce, my boyfriend and I drove the 16 miles to Peterley Manor Farm near Great Missenden to relive our childhoods.

First up, check out that vista. If you’re planning on going picking, you really need to take some of the advice we were offered before we started. Definitely wear flat shoes, and do better than I did and consider long sleeves and trouser legs too. T-shirt and shorts was a vaguely good idea given the weather, but you’d probably come away with fewer injuries (and sunburn...)

Off we trotted through the fields, discovering that we have probably never actually considered what makes fruit ripe before. Top tip: if it won’t come off the bush without you giving it a significant tug, you’re probably better off leaving it to bask in the sun for a little longer. Even bigger tip: go low! As someone who fits into most shops ‘Tall’ range, this felt entirely unnatural, but it would appear it does for most other people as well. The bounty at the bottom of the bushes was A-class.

There was also a strange amount of rivalry present. I had visions of an idyllic cheerful wander around, with people in straw hats (not me, but, you know, people...) all planning gooseberry pies and blackberry jams. Not so much. Lots of ‘where did you get all of those from?’ and urgent scurrying off in the direction you indicated abounded. We somehow developed an instant and intense loathing for a woman who had more punnets of raspberries and blackcurrants than she could easily carry, blaming her for our poor haul on the first set of plants (before we found the secret extra field...).

That’s not to say that it wasn’t a lovely afternoon though. Mooching through the farm, the rhythm of picking and popping into punnets was strangely relaxing and probably as good for you as the fruit itself. We’re so used to dashing into the supermarket and picking up whatever’s on offer that I think we’ve lost some of the joys of food in its rawest form. Most of us can’t – or, indeed, don’t want to! – have a vegetable patch or an allotment, so this is a great way to enjoy fresh produce without the months of hard work beforehand.

Picking done, we traipsed back to the hut to pay. With two bottles of water and a mini-tub of ice-cream thrown in, it came to £11. I call that a pretty cheap afternoon out, and we came away with two punnets crammed full of blackberries and raspberries. Check out that #flatlay below.

What’s more, the adventure doesn’t end there. Now we’ve got a plethora of fruit to eat immediately and lots more in the freezer to bring back that taste of summer in pies, sauces and smoothies in the months to come. It’s a pretty affordable way to get more fruit into your diet, especially if a long year of uni has led to your dietary habits being somewhat questionable!

And I don’t care what anybody says – fruit fresh off the plant just tastes far better than berries which have been hanging around various warehouses, fridges and lorries before they make it onto the supermarket shelves. It’s also much more sustainable for the planet: these berries have travelled a grand total of 16 miles to make it into my bowl. That has to be better for the planet than the strawberries flown in from Spain and the apples from South Africa. Plus we got a nice walk around in the sunshine thrown in – I call that a win of a microadventure.

If you fancy doing something similar in your local area, whack ‘pick your own farm near me’ into Google and let it show you a whole range of destinations for your next microadventure.

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