Take your pick: Orchards in the Netherlands for delicious fun outdoors
2018-11-19 | By Kim McClure
Dutch gezelligheid seems to be as much about being indoors and cozy in town as it does about being one with the green landscapes further afield. If you haven’t yet ventured to the Dutch countryside, you’ll find neatly arranged fields and toy- town houses that elicit a pastoral peacefulness.
Just one of the ways to fully immerse oneself in the countryside is to visit a fruit-picking orchard. Not only a day of fresh air and light exercise, but you’ll leave with a basket of good-for-you treats too.
A blooming business
The Netherlands is the place to be if you’re interested in farming and organic produce. As the second-largest exporter of agricultural products and one of the world’s three leading producers of vegetables, it’s impressive that such a small country is responsible for one quarter of Europe’s vegetable exports.
Location, weather and topography (the flat land- scape) all play in the success of agriculture within the Netherlands. And, of course, its green-fingered residents—residents who are willing to open their farms to the public, to showcase their own hard work and encourage others to grow their own appreciation for fine, delicious produce.
Here’s our pick of five gracious, green orchards that offer zelfpluk , or pick for yourself, to the public, so you can get a taste of the fun.
The pick of the season
Fruits at most zelfpluk farms will be largely seasonal, so here’s a round-up of some of the fresh autumnal fruits to expect:
A berry nice time
It’s easy to buy high-quality fresh produce in any supermarket or greengrocer in the Netherlands— but why not get a taste for how it’s grown and get your hands a little dirty too? You’ll find Van Reeuwijk Fruit & Flowers in Abbenes, a small village in the north of the country, within the Haarlemmermeer province.
You and your troop can zelfpluk, filling baskets with cherries, strawberries, raspberries, mini-cucumbers and tomatoes grown on the farm. But leave room in your basket for the store, where you’ll find flowers a-plenty. The fruit at Van Reeuwijk is largely seasonal, so after the berry season you can pick apples and pears. See zelfplukken.nl
The big (Dutch) apple
For one season every year, De Olmenhorst opens its orchards to the public. The farm is steeped in history, with one family operating the land for 150 years. Its focus for the 60,000 fruit trees is sustainability and responsible farming, with only organic practices used since 2005.
De Olmenhorst prides itself on “healthy and honest” produce, and self-picking in the orchards certainly delivers. Pears and apples abound, with a range of varieties. There are plenty of activities to keep kids and adults entertained after fruit-picking, including workshops, animal rides and even a nature treasure hunt, continuing the joy of the great outdoors.
The 31 hectares of lush fruit farmland can be found about 10 km southwest of Hoofddorp, in Lisserbroek (North Holland). Visit olmenhorst.nl to find out more details about picking days and seasonal fruit and vegetables.
Vegetable lovers will delight at the range of fresh, seasonal produce to pluck at the organic farm De Oude Boerderij. There are over 40 seasonal varieties, with a taste for every palette. On picking days, children can pet farm animals as part of the outdoor experience.
You may be attracted to this farm-to-table organic sanctuary for the vegetable and fruit picking, but you’ll be sold on the range of items to buy in the farm store. The self-named “country products” include organic cheese and meat, jams, wine, mustard and olive oil. If you’re in the mood for something freshly-baked and fabulous, head to the farm bakery.
Only 100% organic flour is used to lovingly create a spread of muffins, breads and other treats. The best part? In their Groeierij programme, the farm helps individuals with mental or physical disabilities by allowing them to work and learn farming skills. Supporting the farm means, in turn, supporting others. Find out more about self-picking and the sustainable produce at deoudeboerderij.nl.
At the heart of this family-run fruit orchard are the Sturkenbooms, who founded the farm and are hands-on in “organic dynamic cultivation.” The farm is just a 30-minute drive from the centre of Amsterdam (and therefore more of a city orchard). In summer, red, black and white berries are the crops of the season and you can leave with a luscious bag full.
The small farm has a diverse range of crops, including berries, grapes, nectarines, cherries and 10 kinds of apples. This autumn, get your pick of gooseberries and Colina apples, then peruse the indoor chicory and shiitake crops.
The property has an orchard, garden cafe and supermarket, stocked with locally-sourced goods and made using the farm’s fruit and vegetables. Saturdays are self-picking days open to the public.
Full of beans
If you subscribe to the notion of “Know what you eat” (or as the Dutch say, “ Weet wat je eet ”), you’ll feel perfectly at home at Sprankenhof. The owners are dedicated to gently educating the public about responsible farming to foster a better connection to healthy food —certified 100% organic, in fact. The farm is located in Tilburg, and the picking sea- son stretches from June to mid-October.
The farm harvests a spread of organic vegetables, fruits and other foods—berries, beans, beetroot, truffle potatoes, cucumbers and organic eggs. It’s a pick-and-mix depending on how many people are in the garden picking that day, and you can weigh and pay when you’ve completed your harvest. You can also pick up a bottle of local honey to round off the sweet experience.
Children will love watching and possibly even meet- ing up to 700 sheep on the farm, which are some- times accommodated from the national park nearby. For information on the latest events, what’s in season and how you can get involved, visit sprankenhof.com .
Orchard visits and self-picking are a worthwhile out- ing choice, not only for the relaxation factor but also for the broader role they can play in educating children and adults about seasonal produce and sustain- able farming. Consider it for a child’s birthday party, a fun family day out or perhaps even a long cycle out into the countryside. With the convenience of buying pre-cut and packed fruit in the Netherlands, it’s easy to forget where amazing fresh produce comes from. This is the season to remind ourselves.
About the author
Kim McClure is a South African writer who has lived in the Netherlands.