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By Kath Gannaway

You really don’t get any fresher from the farm than when you go to the farm gate.
Spring and summer in the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley is ripe for the picking when it comes to getting out into the orchards, among the vines or down in the strawberry patch.
The U-Pick season varies according to the fruit resulting in a limited window of opportunity to indulge with some fruits, so planning your forays is the best strategy to be sure to get a taste of all that’s on offer.
Don’t despair if you don’t have time this season to pick for yourself, there are lots of farms and orchards that offer fresh-picked fruit direct from their bins.
Fruits and berries on offer include strawberries, blueberries, boysenberries, currents, raspberries, cherries, loganberries, youngberries, a wonderful variety of stonefruit … even lemons.
Each farm has its own flavour, and you may find yourself, having spent an hour or two picking the old fashioned way, keen to take advantage of some of the other attractions on offer.
Take time to linger in farm cafes and take home some home-style jams, sauces or chutneys to extend the experience, or as a unique gift for family and friends.
Some farms even offer bottling workshops.
You’ll find that different farms have different payment structures so it’s a good idea to phone ahead to be sure of what you can expect to pay, and what payment options are available.
Be sure too to wear sensible footwear, take a hat and sunscreen, and, whether you’re picking or buying fresh, an esky or cooler bag is a must to ensure that the fruit is in peak condition when you arrive home.

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