It’s the freshest possible way to enjoy Essex’s wonderful selection of fruit and veg: fields and orchards where you can simply fill your boots (or, rather, your punnets, bags and baskets) with nature’s seasonal bounty. Here’s our guide to picking your own, right here in the county

Cammas Hall Farm, Hatfield Broad Oak

The Lukies family have been farming here since 1889 and having turned their hand to PYO back in 1966 they’ve since gone on to become leaders in the field, with awards under their belt to prove it. Today, Cammas Hall Farm really is the sort of place where you can stretch an hour’s fruit picking into a day-long adventure. Yes, you’ll find everything from strawberries to sweet corn, sunflowers to blackberries to pumpkins, but there’s also a maize maize to navigate (from August to October), a Tea Barn for coffee, cake and light lunches, plus a pizza cabin and an ice-cream parlour in the summer. There’s even the chance to play a round of Foot Golf (the clue’s in the name - you get the balls into the holes by kicking them, rather than with a club). You’ll need to book a slot – though on Tues and Friday mornings 9am-10am, over 60s can just turn up to pick – and they’ll receive a 10% discount in the Tea Barn.

Five Ways Fruit Farm, Stanway

Having run a successful cherry PYO scheme in 2023, watch this space to see when Five Ways are offering their cherry picking sessions this year. It’s only a short window in July – as they say, ‘you snooze, you lose!’ Three varieties, Kordia, Karina and Regina, are up for grabs, and grown under rain cover, both to protect the fruit and pickers in showery weather. Last year, so popular was the offering that a timed booking system operated, so check the website for details. If you don’t want to pick, you’ll find punnets of cherries plus everything from asparagus to plums in season, as well as meat from Layer Marney Meats on sale at the Five Ways farm shop.

Lathcoats Farm, Chelmsford

This long-established family farm is now home to the third generation of Taylors to grow here, with brothers Stephen and Philip Taylor having been joined by Stephen's son James, the fourth generation. Their connection with Lathcoats dates back to 1912, when Lawrence Taylor bought the farm and started to plant up the land with fruit trees. He sent apples to Covent Garden market by train and won many prizes in what was a flourishing, local fruit-growing industry. Some 100 years later, Lathcoats farm shop was named farmshop of the year by none other than Essex Life magazine! PYO from a whole range of soft fruits, from strawberries to boysenberries (essentially like a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry), plus courgettes and dwarf beans and, later in the year, cobnuts, dahlias, pumpkins – even Christmas trees. With a farm shop, too, you might never need to visit a supermarket again!

And something different for apple lovers: if you don’t have the space in your garden for a tree, Lathcoat’s Orchard Experience is a great way to get your fix of all things pomme. Rent a Bramley or Cox apple tree here and, come spring, you’ll get a Blossom Walk around the farm led by Philip and James Taylor, where you can see how your tree’s getting on, followed by coffee and cake. In September you can gather your harvest - or alternatively pick up to 5kg of apples from Lathcoat’s PYO orchard. Either way, you should have more than enough apples to see you through until the next spring.

Park Fruit Farm, Frinton-on-sea

If it’s PYO plums you’re after, head for small, family-run Park Fruit Farm, where you’ll find over ten varieties plus damsons, too. Ring in advance to check availability (generally, though, the season runs from late July until October), as sometime the crop can be small. If you’re happy just to pick up from the farm shop, you’ll find not only plums but raspberries, apples and pears and blackberries, too, as well as juice, pressed and bottled on site.

Spencers Farm, Halstead

You really are spoiled for choice on the PYO at this local stalwart, going strong for over 50 years. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, loganberries, red currants and black currants are on offer – a veritable cornucopia! Beyond fruit picking, there’s plenty to do here, with a well-stocked farm shop, food at Carter’s Café, and children can make the most of an enclosed play area and watch the goats crossing over the pretty little bridge.

Great British Life: Find dahlias like these and more at Oh Happy Dahlia, near ColchesterFind dahlias like these and more at Oh Happy Dahlia, near Colchester (Image: Getty)

Oh - and don’t forget the flowers!

Beyond fruit and veg, there are some lovely PYO flower farms in Essex (no, you can’t eat them, but you can certainly pop them in a vase and admire them!). Not only do several of the PYO farms listed above offer the chance to pick sunflowers, but you’ll find them, too, at the wonderful pick-your-own patch Writtle Sunflowers, at Radley Green, opposite Pooley Pool Farm. With the farm having been run by the Metson family for five generations, the relatively new patch means beautiful blooms to take home – and beautiful shots for your insta grid if that's your thing.

‘Life is like a box of chocolates and much the same can be said about dahlias - I wake up in the morning and I just don’t know what I’m going to get,’ says Kelly Johnson, who has been growing them for over ten years. Like Kelly, we love the gorgeous generosity of these garden favourites, which come in myriad shapes, sizes and shades. If you do, too, head for her plot at Oh Happy Dahlias in Colchester. Though it’s the dahlias that stand out, you’ll find plenty of other gorgeous blooms there in season, too.;

Great British Life: Strawberry fruit collected in the kitchen berry garden.Strawberry fruit collected in the kitchen berry garden. (Image: Getty)

PYO season

From mid June: strawberries and raspberries, gooseberries

From July: blackcurrants, blueberries, plums and cherries

From September: cobnuts, apples, pears

From October: pumpkins

Great British Life: Strawberry picking's an essential part of any summer for childrenStrawberry picking's an essential part of any summer for children (Image: Getty)

Heading for the fields with children?

A few PYO top tips…

Make sure everyone’s dressed practically – with trainers, long shorts or trousers to cover small knees and sun hats if necessary.

Don’t forget sunscreen, water incase anyone gets thirsty and antiseptic wipes for any grazes or insect bites. If you’re picking a large amount, you might want to consider bringing a kneeling pad, too.

Many PYO spots will want you to use their containers for picking – but do take plenty of your own incase not, or so you’ve got extra if required.

And how to pick the perfect strawberry: be gentle and avoid handling the fruit – instead, pinch the stalk off between your thumbnail and forefinger. Only go for ripe fruit – strawberries aren’t like bananas and won’t ripen off the vine, so if they’re not sweet and juicy when you pick them, they never will be!

Finally, do check farms for availability before making any long journeys!


Make the most of you PYO bounty with these two easy delicious dessert recipes – summer in a bowl!


Great British Life: Cherry and almond pudding - a great way to make the most of Essex cherriesCherry and almond pudding - a great way to make the most of Essex cherries (Image: Getty)

Baked Cherry & Almond Pudding recipe

Serves 4-6

Make the most of Essex cherries with this warm pud - the contrast between the light, almondy filling and the juicy fruit is a real treat.

You’ll need.

400g Essex cherries, pits removed (either by hand, or you might want to try pushing them out with the end of chopstick)

30g unsalted

60g ground almonds

60g caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

285ml milk/single cream

Grated nutmeg

2 tbs almond essence or Amaretto liqueur (optional)

30g flaked almonds

1 tbs icing sugar

What to do

Preheat the oven to 180⁰c.

Thickly butter an oval baking dish and line with the cherries.

Mix together all the other ingredients except the flaked almonds.

Pour batter over fruit and cook in centre of oven for about 40 minutes, scattering the flakes almonds on the top after about half an hour.

Remove from oven and sift the icing sugar on top.

Serve warm with cream.


Great British Life: Strawberry shortcake - summer in a bowlStrawberry shortcake - summer in a bowl (Image: Getty)

Strawberry shortcake recipe

This American favourite is great way to make Essex strawberries go that little bit further, with the buttery base (more like a shortbread, really, and a doddle to make) setting off the sweetness of the berries to perfection. Serves 6.

You’ll need

For the shortcake:

225g plain flour

Pinch salt

½ tsp baking powder

115g room-temperature butter, plus a little more for spreading

60g caster sugar

½ an egg

1 tbsp milk

For the filling and topping:

Small punnet of Kentish strawberries, sliced, plus extra to serve

1 tbs caster sugar

What to do

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees/gas 7

Grease 2 x 20cm sandwich tins

Mix all the ingredients together to form a stiff dough.

Pat into the sandwich tins and prick with a fork.

Bake for around 5-8 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Remove when golden, turn out and spread with more butter.

When cool, fill and top with sliced strawberries, sprinkled with caster sugar.

Serve with whipped cream and more strawberries

Recipes courtesy of Ann Lindsay