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Picking Calendar: Freshness at Hand

2010/02/01
Text by Allison Shi

Picking Calendar

Freshness at Hand

“My friends and I wanted to pick strawberries in July last year, but when we called a farm where we could pick them; they told us we were too late. I don’t want to miss my chance this year,” said Jiang Xin, who plans to pick strawberries at a fruit farm in Xingshou Town, Changping District, with her friends soon.

For Jiang and many other Beijing residents, fruit-picking is a favourite seasonal pastime, a recreational activity that the whole family can enjoy, whether Chinese or foreign. Farms that allow fruit-picking ring Beijing, with their numbers increasing in recent years. The season for self-picking fruit and vegetables is remarkably long: strawberries can be picked in late winter or early spring, apricots and cherries in late spring, peaches, grapes and watermelons in summer and pears and chestnuts in the autumn. So the question is: when do you go? BTM has created a pick-your-own calendar to help you decide.

Strawberry Picking: An Early Taste of Spring

Beijing’s spring is short yet beloved. One juicy bite of a strawberry, maybe sweet, maybe sour, but surly fresh, would remind you of the advent of spring. Planted in green houses mostly, strawberries are available from December to July. But with jasmine blossoming and its warm breezes and sunshine, spring seems to be the best time to get an early start on the picking season.

 

The Best Picking Places

“We have the best strawberries to pick,” a villager in Xingshou Town in Changping District told BTM.

Changping District lies at 40 degrees north latitude and is considered one of the best areas for growing strawberries. Known as “the backyard of Beijing,” this district is home to historical sites such as the Ming Tombs, Juyongguan Great Wall, natural spa resorts and national forest parks. In mountainous areas, sunny sides of mountains at higher elevations provide water and favourable conditions for strawberry cultivation.

The people of Xingshou Town, in northeastern Changping District, were among the first to engage in strawberry cultivation in the capital. The area is now host to many self-pick farms and is known as the best place for strawberries in Beijing.

“When you arrive in Xingshou Town, you won’t have to look for the farms yourself. There are so many farms that their greeters will welcome you at the roadside,” a manager at the Beijing Changping National Agricultural Science Park said. He said Xingshou Town is a must-visit town. “You can pick strawberries grown inside green houses from December to May in Beijing.” She said the best strawberries are mostly planted in green houses to ensure the best conditions for their growth. She said from January to May pickers can get top-quality strawberries.

 

Some Things You May not Know about Strawberries

Strawberries were originally called “strewnberries” because the fruit is “strewn” among the leaves of the plant. Cultivation of strawberries began in Europe in the 1300’s.

About 20 strawberries can provide the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Some regard them as an excellent antioxidant.

Picking

Cindy Zhuo is an employer of a State-owned company. She works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Born in urban Beijing, she doesn’t even know the difference between spring onions and large Chinese green onions.

“I like strawberries, but I never knew what a strawberry plant looked like. When tasting strawberries the fresher the better. But what we can get at market is transported from suburbs or other cities. Why not try the first-hand freshness by yourself?” Cindy said .

“Having lived in the city for a long time, I sometimes need a change of pace; so I decided to spend a day in Changping District, hanging out with friends around the Ming Tombs Reservoir area and picking some fruit.”

On one trip, Zhuo and her friends "We departed Huilongguan at about 9 a.m. and headed north to the Ming Tombs Reservoir, arriving at about 10 a.m. “In the morning, my friends and I rode horses, went fishing and took motorboat ride on the reservoir.” At noon, after a “busy” morning, Zhuo and her friends headed eastward. “On the road, we saw several signs advertising places to eat, but we also noticed the orchards lining the road."

After lunch, at about 2 p.m., the group continued east in the direction of Xingshou Town. “On the road to Xingshou, there were many orchards. We picked one to visit at random. I was surprised to see a complete (strawberry) plant for the first time: the leaves were bright green and the fruit red; the triangular red fruit hid under the cover of green leaves, but their sweet smell and bright colour gave them away.  

“It was so different from sitting in my cube at work!” Zhuo said her friends were excited when beginning to pick.

To pick a strawberry, everyone has to bend or squat to reach the low plants. Scissors are useful because they help avoid bruising the fruit.

“There is no rule about the standards of good strawberries. At least I was quite careless about that. I just picked the ones that seemed nice and put them into a bamboo-woven basket. Later, I discovered that the deep red and smaller-sized strawberries tasted sweeter.”

By 4:30 p.m. the group was feasting on their strawberries in the orchard: visitors are allowed to do this, but should wash the fruit first. After a feast in the field, Zhuo went to the weigh station in the orchard.

“You can take what you’ve picked back home. Though the price there is two or three times higher than that at a downtown supermarket, I still think it is meaningful.” Zhuo suggested pickers should bring boxes or lager cases to carry their strawberries to protect them from bruising on the way home.

By 8 p.m., Zhuo was back in her living room, watching TV and sharing her fresh pickings with her family.

Strawberry Picking Orchards in Beijing

Tianyi Strawberry Ecology

天翼草莓采摘园

This orchard was among the first established in Xingshou Town. There are 180 greenhouses dedicated to strawberries in the orchard. In addition to strawberry picking, people can buy strawberries wrapped in gift boxes and potted strawberry plants. As one of the major fruit picking farm in Xingshou Town, Tianyi Strawberry Ecology offers coupons via its Web site, allowing 5 percent to 15 percent discounts if you print them before you go.

Tel: +86 10 6172 1718

WWW: http://www.tianyicaomei.cn

Address: Tianyi Strawberry Ecology, Xingshou Town, Changping District

北京昌平区兴寿镇天翼草莓园

 

Dingding Pick-Your-Own Farm

丁丁采摘园

One of the most famous strawberry varieties at the Dingding Pick-Your-Own Farm is the “Milk Strawberry.” Diluted milk is sprayed on strawberry plants during their growing season; so the strawberries “drink” milk while growing up. The milk scent adds fragrance to the smell of strawberries. On this farm, you can rent a patch in a field to plant your own fruit, vegetables and flowers.

WWW: http://www.caomeicaizhai.com

Address: Dingding Pick-Your-Own Farm, Xinzhuang Village, Xingshou Town, Changping District

昌平区兴寿镇辛庄村丁丁草莓采摘园

 

Tianxing Agronomic Park

天星农艺园

This orchard has many strawberry varieties, such as Akihime, Sweet Charlie and Benihoppe. It offers two kinds of strawberry potted plants: one to cultivate the plant yourself and one with mature strawberries on the plant. 

WWW: http://www.txzzy.com/

Address: Tianxing Agronomic Park, Xingshou Town, Changping District

昌平区兴寿镇天星农艺园

Mark Your

Picking Calendar

Nearly every month in Beijing, you can find different pick-your-own farms featuring various fruit. To avoid missing the best picking time for your favourite fruit, here are some reminders.

Cherries

May and June are the best months for cherries in Beijing. Regarded as the “diamond” of all fruit, cherries are rich in iron content (100 grams of cherries contain 5.9 milligrams of iron) as well as antioxidants. Many orchards feature cherry picking in suburban Beijing. In one of the orchards called Longwan Cherry Valley, the whole valley is coated in purplish red when cherries mature; their scent is unforgettable pleasure.

 

Longwan Cherry Valley:

龙湾屯樱桃幽谷

Address: Longwan Cherry Valley, Xinzhuang Village, Longwan Town, Shunyi District

顺义区龙湾镇辛庄村龙湾屯樱桃幽谷

Tel: +86 10 6046 1392

 

Miaofeng Mountain Cherry Park

妙峰樱桃园

This park is located in Yingtaogou Village—“yingtao” is homophonous to “cherry” in Chinese—an ancient village in Mentougou District that, it is said, has planted cherries for 300 years.

Address: Miaofeng Mountain Cherry Park, Miaofengshan Town, Mentougou District

北京市门头沟区妙峰山镇北部

Tel: +86 10 6188 3114

 

Peaches

A cool, juicy, sweet peach relieve you of some of the may stresses brought on by Beijing’s summer heat. Pinggu District is famous for large, high-quality peaches of several varieties, such as flat peaches, smooth-skinned peaches, yellow peaches and white peaches, promoting the local government to host the annual Peach Blossom Festival from later April to early May. In 2009, the Pinggu District Government prepared 80,000 tons of peaches for tourists to pick. This year, there may be even more.

 

Guajiayu Organic Peach Park

平谷挂甲峪有机甜桃采摘园

Tel:  +86 10 6194 7321

Address: Guajiayu Village, Dahushan Town,

Pinggu District

平谷区大华山镇挂甲峪村

 

Liujiadian Flat Peach Orchard

Liujiadian Town, known as the number one flat-peach village in China, has the biggest flat-peach farm in Beijing. The flat peach, pantao in Chinese symbolizes longevity and immortality in the Chinese culture. In one of the Four Great Classic Chinese Novels, the Pilgrimage to the West, the key character, the Monkey King, steals some flat peaches grown in the Heavenly Orchard, which are resvered for birthday party of the Heavenly Queen. Learn more about flat peaches at the flat-peach farm in Liujiadian Town.

 

Liudian Xishan Flat Peach Picking Park

刘店西山采摘区

Tel: +86 10 6197 2588 

Address: Liudian Xishan Flat Peach Picking Park, Liudian Village, Liujiadian Town, Pinggu District

平谷区刘家店镇刘店村西山采摘区

 

Watermelons

From July to September, it seems that no one can get enough of watermelons in Beijing. The touch of the melon is soothing, and indulging in the sweet melon flesh will cool you off on a hot summer’s day. Daxing District, the best-known watermelon producer in China, hosts its Watermelon Festival every year from late May to early June. Here, you will find tons of normal watermelons, green-skinned and round-shaped; rare watermelons, yellow skinned and cubic-shaped. After a fresh and cool watermelon lunch, you can visit the Daxing Watermelon Museum.

 

Daxing Watermelon Museum

大兴西瓜博物馆

Address: Panggezhuang Town, Daxing District

大兴区庞各庄镇西瓜博物馆

Tel: +86 10 8928 1181

Laosong Melon Garden

 

老宋瓜王采摘园

Tel: +86 10 8928 2866

Address: Pang’an Lu, Panggezhuang Town, Daxing District

大兴区庞各庄庞安路

 

Sijichun Agronomic Park

四季春农艺园

Tel: +86 10 8928 9588

Address: Panggezhuang Town, Daxing District

大兴区庞各庄镇南

 

Grapes

If watermelons are too big for you pick and carry from July to September, try picking some grapes, another cooling source of refreshment. One of the most famous grape production places is the Turpan Depression in the Xingjiang Uygur Autonomous Region thousands of kilometres away. But to taste the juicy and sweet grapes you don’t have to travel that far, because in Daxing District’s Caiyu Town, also known as “Turpan in Beijing,” you can quench your thirst for juicy grapes in the summer. There are more than 4,300 grape farmers in Caiyu Town. Weather conditions in this area are similar to that found in Bordeaux, France. In this town, after picking grapes, you can enjoy some wine and visit the China Grape Museum as well.

 

China Grape Museum

中国葡萄博物馆

Tel: +86 10 8027 3611  

Address: Caiyu Town, Daxing District

大兴区采育镇镇葡萄博物馆

 

Caiyu Grape Sightseeing and Picking Farm

采育葡萄观光采摘园

Tel: +86 10 8020 9184

Address: Caiyu Town, Daxing District

大兴区采育镇

 

Raspberries and Mulberries

High in nutrition, raspberries and mulberries are easy to pick despite their small size and delicate nature. Mulberries begin showing up in markets in March but are available for picking beginning in May in suburban Beijing. From June to September, local farms will allow you to indulge in the subtle sweetness of raspberries. Just pick the berries you want; people at the weigh stations will help you prepare them properly for the trip home.

 

Yulin Ancient Mulberry Farm

御林古桑园

Address: Gaodian District, Anding Town, Daxing District

大兴区安定镇高店村

Tel: +86 10 8023 3242

 

Kingsberry Farm (raspberries and blueberries)

金百瑞树莓园

Address: Kingsberry Picking Farm Yongning Town, Yanqing County,

延庆县永宁镇金百瑞树莓采摘园

Tel: +86 10 6757 8536

 

Yongxinyuan Ecology Leisure Farm (for raspberries)

顺义永新源生态休闲农庄

Address: Zhangzhen Town, Shunyi District

顺义区张镇镇永新源生态休闲农庄

Tel: +86 10 6148 9020

 

Chinese Chestnuts

There is no other place in Beijing more famous than Huairou District in cultivating Chinese chestnuts. As early as in Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), emperors chose Chinese chestnuts from Huairou District as tributes when worshipping their ancestors. In Liuduhe Village of Bohai Town in Huairou District, chestnut dinners with meat and chicken stewed with chestnuts and chestnut porridge are available to tourists. Carry some long tongs to easily pick up the spiny chestnut burrs.

 

Liuduhe Folk Village

六渡河民俗村

Address: Liuduhe Village, Bohai Town, Huairou District

Tel:+86 10 6162 1944, 6965 9647

 

Apples

As the first place in China to cultivate the Fuji apple, the crisp, juicy and sweet apple variety with pink sparkled peel, Changping District hosts Apple Festival from October to November every year. In the festival, you can pick the lovely fruit by yourself and growers from Changping District will offer you even more: apple salad, apple juice, apple jam, apple pie, caramelized apples and other apple-based dishes.

 

Yannan Apple Plantation

燕南苹果种植园

Tel: +86 10 6073 1728

Address: Heying Village, Nanshao Town, Changping District,

昌平区南邵镇何营村

 

China-Japan Friendship Orchard

中日友好观光果园

Tel: +86 10 6073 1689

Address: Tianchijingqu Lu, Nanshao Town,

Changping District

昌平区南邵镇天池景区路



 
 
 
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