As the weather warms, Time Out round up five days out where you can pick, or plant your own fruit and veg in and around Shanghai.
At this time of year, Malu Vineyard’s 5,000 acres of vines sag with the weight of succulent Jingya grapes (bunches weigh as much as 400-500 grams). With 70 different grape varieties, what you pick depends on what’s ripe that day, but you get the opportunity to try all those harvested in the visitors’ centre at the end. Beyond Malu’s gates there are smaller holdings where you can pick cheaper bunches for as little as 10RMB/jin. The road to the park is lined with touts holding signboards so you won’t have to look far.
When to go May until early June is the mature listing period (when the buying/selling period begins and ends). The peak fruit ripens in July and August.
How much Entrance is 30RMB/person or 25RMB/person for group bookings. Kids under 1.3m get in for 15RMB. The average price of grapes is 25RMB/jin, but there are no extras included as with some of the other pick-your-own spots on this list.
Best for Intrepid independent pickers looking for a rustic experience.
Tip Explore the surrounding orchards where you’ll find seasonal fruit from western cherry, apricot, persimmon, pomegranate and peach plants.
Shanghai Malu Grape Theme Park 27 Malu Zhenda Zhi Lu, near Liuxiang Gong Lu, Jiading district (5915 5240, 5951 1811; www.maluputao.org). Open 8am-4.30pm daily. Metro: Malu. 嘉定区马陆镇大治路27号, 近浏翔公路
On Shanghai’s western border, Shanghai Lu Bo Vegetable and Fruit Company contains 1,650 acres of strawberry fields and is the most popular of all the region’s fruit-picking spots. The experience is basic: you grab a basket and head out into the fields and greenhouses to help yourself to bright red fruits.
When to go Strawberries are available over six and a half months in two prime periods. The first runs from April until early June. The second is from mid-November to early March. In summer, the greenhouses can be intensely hot during the day, so it’s best to go in the morning or the early evening.
How much 30RMB gets you entry to the farm and a home-cooked lunch, but no strawberries. Costs vary depending on the season, but it’s about 8-10RMB/500g of strawberries, then another 3-6RMB for cartons to carry them in.
Best for Sugar addicts and dedicated fruit pickers looking to put in a full day’s elbow grease out in the fields.
Tip Public transport is limited, but you can take the Hu Zhao Bus Line from outside Exit 3 of Huangpi Nan Lu metro station and get off at Zhao Tun Bai Shi Lu, close to the farm. If in doubt, Ms Zhang (number below, Chinese only), who runs the farm, can help with travel arrangements.
Shanghai Lu Bo Vegetable and Fruit Company Lane 2549, 13 Zhao Tun Bai Shi Lu, near Songnan Lu, Bai He Town, Qingpu district (5921 2552). Open 8am-5pm daily. 青浦区白鹤镇赵屯白石路2549弄13号,近淞南路
At the very top end of the pick-your-own price poll are the tea-picking packages at this deluxe hotel, about an hour’s drive from Hangzhou train station. Fuchun Resort is a golf club too, but the walk spoilers and their fairways can’t upstage the countryside. Set at the foot of misty mountains beside a lake, the tea plantations stretch around steep juts of bushy hillside and are harvested by around 30 local pickers for the resort itself – all the tea produced is used or sold on site.
You can wander the 150 acre tea plantations at leisure but the guided picking is limited to an hour in the morning at 10am, just as the sun rises over the mountains. The picking is a contemplative, slow-burning experience that’s as much about the scenery and the package as a whole as the harvest itself. At the end of picking, back at the hotel, the teamaster pan-roasts the leaves in a steel wok and packages your bounty in an attractive gift set. The price also includes a welcome tea set at the Lake Lounge, breakfast and an hour-long tea-infused foot massage.
When to go From April to autumn.
How much Hangzhou is the home of the much-coveted Longjing tea and leaves here are pricey: 400RMB/50g at the resort shop. The tea retreat package, based on single or double occupancy, is 4,500RMB/one night; 6,900RMB/two nights.
Best for Meditative, low-gear hideaways and couples on a budget.
Tip Bring your swimming kit. Fuchun Resort has easily one of the best indoor hotel pools we’ve seen and two outdoor jacuzzis with gas-fired stove-like heating.
Fuchun Resort Hangfu Yanjiang Gong Lu, Fuyang, Zheijiang province (571 6346 1111; www.fuchunresort.com). 浙江省富阳杭富沿江公路
Strawberry-picking is king in the month of May but, if it’s veg you’re after, organic food delivery company Fields offer a tour of a small local farm. Priced at only 100RMB/day, (including lunch and downtown pick-up) it’s a bargain. The van picks up tour takers from Xintiandi at 9.30am and drives 45 minutes east to the agricultural hub of Fengxian – a district so veggie orientated that there’s an annual cauliflower festival in March. Vege Yabe supplies organic food giants Hai by Goga and Kush, so the quality and flavour of the produce is taken seriously (imported soil from Nanjing and peat from inner Mongolia feature here), but this happily doesn’t come at the cost of an informal, get-your-hands-dirty ethos.
While Mahota (see below) focuses on education, at Vege Yabe you’re simply armed with a plastic bag and sent picking. The produce is fresh and flavoursome – in spring, head for the cherry tomatoes, lettuce, rocket and dwarf carrots.
When to go The farm is open all year and grows around 14 different types of veg including spinach, radishes, mint, tomatoes, sweetcorn, celery, asparagus and aubergine.
How much 100RMB/day includes a packed picnic lunch with fresh seasonal salads and sandwiches, plus three bags of veg and a box of strawberries (which alone would cost 50RMB from the supermarket). Extras will cost you roughly 100RMB/3kg depending on the veg.
Best for Last-minute weekend escapes on a budget.
Tip You can taste as you pick here and we recommend heading for the mizuna, or California peppergrass/spider mustard, which tastes a little like rocket (arugula). In Shanghai, its exclusive to Vege Yabe.
Vege Yabe Meet at Starbucks Xintiandi, Lane 181, Building 18, Taicang Lu, near Madang Lu, Huangpu district (400 820 2597, 138 1695 8551, 139 1802 4283; www.fieldschina.com). Meet by 9.30am. Metor: Xintiandi. 黄浦区太仓路181弄新天地北里18号, 近马当路
Based on Chongming Island, Shanghai’s largest piggery doubles as one of its richest organic farms. Families come to coo at the animals while agriculturalists study the cutting edge practices at work here. (Mahota has a resident professor of agriculture, Prof Lin, and a fully staffed laboratory). The 8,000 swine aside, the focus at Mahota is on agricultural education and the tour begins with a carrot juice and a ten-minute video on the farm’s ethos. The day is loosely structured allowing you to roam free in the 124 acre site. You can feed the chickens, catch tadpoles and even decorate the graffiti wall.
Vegetable-wise, it’s about planting not picking at Mahota – with the exception of weeds, which you’re asked to repot afterwards. In the seedling house visitor groups are sub-divided and equipped with trays of soil. You’re then taught how to plant your chosen veg, as each requires a different seeding ratio. The process is fast forwarded when you’re taken to the planting beds where you bury pre-seeded saplings in the mulchy soil.
When to go With a huge range of veg available, Mahota runs planting sessions throughout the year.
How much 280RMB/person; 140RMB/children under 1.3m; free for children under 3 years old. The price includes delicious vegetable or chicken hotpot for lunch and a generous goody bag full of fresh veg, a straw hat and a water bottle. Transportation is not included, but is available from Puxi on request (prices vary; call the farm for a quote).
Best for Kids, smog-fatigued city slickers and soil-heads with a genuine interest in how the garden grows.
Tip Visit the piggery, a unique chance to see the little oinkers running free.
Mahota Farm Xiandai Agricultural Development Zone, Bei Qixiao, Chongming Island (6944 1040; www.mahotafarm.com). 崇明县北七效现代农业开发区