I was klutzy enough to slip down some stairs and snap a rib this summer (just another chapter in my accident-prone life), so the girls were housebound alongside me while I recovered.
Luckily, by the time my ribs had improved the weather had taken a turn for the better too. So when we were invited by kids’ drink favourite, Fruit Shoot, to attend a picnic at the lovely HOME COTTAGE FARM, we were practically fighting each other to get out the door first.
The farm itself is located deep among the winding back roads of Iver Heath, a semi-rural village in Buckinghamshire. As the concrete footpaths and residential estates gave way to lush, green fields and winding tree-shrouded lanes, we turned up the radio and began to sing (badly) along. This was JUST what we needed after two weeks stuck at home.
When we pulled up in the early afternoon the sun was shining and families were wandering around, plastic buckets of berries slung over their arms.
The farm had a charming ever-so-slightly ramshackle feel – you could tell this was a real working family farm, not a gimmicky tourist trap – which instantly reminded me of growing up in New Zealand in the 1980’s.
And was it my imagination, or did the air smell sweeter too?
The team from Fruit Shoot were on hand to greet us, and explain more about our lovely afternoon. ‘Follow the signs for raspberries, blackberries and apples,’ they told us. ‘Your challenge is to fill your baskets right up to the top!’
Afterwards, there was a delicious spread for us to enjoy – and plenty of Fruit Shoot to quench our thirst, of course.
The girls couldn’t wait to get started, rushing off to the blackberry bushes.
They darted in an out of the tangled vines, plucking the juiciest blackberries and calling me over when they were too high to reach. ‘Remember not to eat the berries before we pay for them,’ I instructed. ‘OK, Mum,’ they replied (as they surreptitiously wiped the purple rings from their mouths).
Once one basket was filled we made our way over to the neighbouring patch, peering under the green leaves to find the reddest, plumpest raspberries nestling underneath. They were so deliciously ripe they practically fell into our hands.
Baskets overflowing, we took the time to wander around the farm, stopping to say hi to the free-range chickens and sheep, and have a chat to the elderly owner, and her daughter.
When they bought the farm back in 1975 it was a jungle of inaccessible apple trees – over the years they’ve managed to thin them out, and now grow 15 different pick-your-own varieties, including Bramley, Cox and Golden Delicious). They’ve also made way for berries, plums and pears.
Next, we made our way down the dusty driveway, to the orchards.
By the time we returned to the picnic our bags were literally groaning with apples – and we were starving!
We found ourselves a spot on the picnic blanket, and tucked into some sandwiches. After a chat with Lilinha, from Lilinha Angel’s World, and Leyla from The Motherhood Diaries we received a very special treat – a delicious range of baked goodies made by Great British Bake Off graduate herself, Holly Bell, including slices, loaves and muffins made from real fruit and – where possible – using their natural sweetness in place of added sugar.
‘No Added Sugar’ is a message you’ll often hear at Fruit Shoot.
This popular kids’ range includes six fruity flavours – apple & blackcurrant, orange, summer fruits, peach & mango, tropical, and apple. These vitamin-infused drinks contain real fruit juice, sourced from orchards all over the UK and the world, but no added sugar, artificial flavours or colours (in 2012 the aspartame was removed, and replaced by the low-calorie sweeteners, acesulfame K and sucralose).
The girls drink water on a day-to-day basis, but on treat days they always ask for Fruit Shoot (Big Sis’s favourite is summer fruits, and Lil Sis’s is apple & blackcurrant).
So anyway – are you wondering what we did with all our lovely fruit?
After eating lots of lovely berries ‘au naturale’, we still had LOADS of fruits left. It was time for Mummy to get her baking cap on.
I’ve always been very open about my shortcomings in the kitchen (you can read about how I fared with my Riverford Organic box, and my Fish is the Dish challenge to cook Coley with Leeks and Broccoli) but it seems old dogs CAN learn new tricks, as I’ve been enjoying cooking and baking a lot more recently.
Now I’m not saying I’m particularly good at it, but so far everything has turned out not just edible, but – if I say so myself – pretty darn yummy.
I decided to make fruit samosas, using this apple pie recipe and adding blackberries to the mix. With the remainder of the berries I kept it simple and made this simple raspberry jam recipe, with a little twist of lemon to cut through the sweetness.
We ate the samosas with some dairy-free vanilla ice cream, and they were absolutely delish; I’ve been enjoying the jam for my breakfast each morning, smeared on a freshly baked croissant. The fact we actually picked the fruit with our own hands made it taste even better.
Thank you FRUIT SHOOT, for our delicious day out.