A couple of weeks back we went, with some friends, to one of Berkshire’s pick-your-own farms. These provide probably the tamest sort of back-to-nature experience possible: a controlled, regimented and essentially wholly manmade environment that still allows a frisson of contact with our inner hunter-gatherers. Freed from our suburban shackles, we were a band of plundering monkeys, with eyes, noses and taste buds fixed on the tasty prize. Sweet, yielding strawberries, sherbert-sharp rhubarb and unpromisingly tart yet ultimately delicious gooseberries: all this and more could be ours! So for once we really worked for our supper, labouring quietly in the hot sun. If we spoke at all, we employed language only for what I recall reading is supposed to have been its original purpose: telling each other where the ripe fruit was.
The only potential draw back of the PYO I can think off (besides sunstroke, nettle stings, cleaver-induced rashes, etc.) is that our ancestral urge to gather as much good fruit as we can combines with temptingly low prices to ensure that one often comes away with a nearly unmanageable haul of rapidly decaying fruit. So what followed after our afternoon’s picking was a rather frantic few days in the kitchen attempting to capture the fresh, fruity, floral flavours at their best before rot set in. Jams, sorbets, ice creams, cordials, fruit sauce, curd – two kitchens can seldom have been more productive in such a short space of time (nor, alas, can dirty dishes ever have mounted up so fast).