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Easy pickings

I'm as guilty as the next person of grumbling over unripe strawberries and flaccid courgettes in the supermarket. Why don't they just label them "ancient vegetables from the other side of the world"?

I could grow my own; or more realistically, I could pick my own. Most people will have experienced nirvana in the strawberry patch, emerging full to the brim and stained red; but my ideal Pick Your Own (PYO) would offer a more varied range.

The Harvest Times is a regional guide to PYOs and farm shops produced by the FRA (Farm Retail Association), which has about 200 members. Farms are coded with the produce available. Looking through it, I was impressed by the fruits and vegetables that can be obtained in this fashion: berries and cherries, orchard fruits, beetroot, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, sweetcorn and tomatoes, around 30 are listed, as well their picking season.

There are over 1,000 PYOs in the country. In her book Food Lovers' Britain, Henrietta Green has selected about 50 she considers to be of particular value. August is the peak picking month, with apples and plums, raspberries and blackberries, pumpkins, squashes, and runner beans. Get out there.

For a copy of the 'Harvest Times', send your name and address and 50p in stamps to: Harvest Times, PO Box 200, Winchester, SO23 8XJ.

'Food Lovers' Guide to Britain' by Henrietta Green (BBC Books pounds 12. 99)

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