Published: 06:00, 12 May 2021
| Updated: 15:02, 12 May 2021
Think you've tried every kind of Pick Your Own? Then asparagus might make you think again.
The high-end veg might not sound like a perfect crop to pick your own, but you don't need a whole punnet of it.
At Ladysden Farm in Goudhurst - possibly the only place in Kent where you can PYO asparagus - you could pick a whole kilo of it for £7.50, if you wanted. But you don't have long to do it.
With one of the shortest growing seasons, traditionally starting on St George's Day, April 23, and ending on Midsummer's Eve, June 21, the veg makes up for it, by, if the weather suits it, growing up to 13cms a day.
But this year's season is shorter than most, as the weather has meant it wasn't even beginning to poke through the soil until last week.
Chris Kember, owner of the farm with brother Steve and niece Suzie, said: "The traditional start of the picking season is St George's Day but it's just been so cold at night it has slowed the growing process down. It's very weather dependent. If it's in perfect conditions, it can grow 13cms in eight hours. Occasionally we will cut it twice a day."
"In our experience, it is a great way to get the PYO season going. It's just a brilliant way to get people down for the start of the season."
Asparagus has helped, along with many other crops through the year, put the family farm on the map. The 35-acre site, acquired by the family back in 1976, has always been a popular PYO site, but today has a farm shop with homemade refreshments, which opened in June 2019; 15 outdoor tables for people to have light lunches, and has produce from April through to the autumn, when pumpkins help bring in the punters, along with the summer maize maze, now in its fourth year.
And pickers seek out the Goudhurst site from far and wide.
Suzie said: "We have a lot of customers who come just for asparagus season. We don't see them any other time of the year. They know it's fresh today; something you buy in the supermarket has probably been picked two weeks ago. You don't need to cut the end off. They come from all over."
Due to the pandemic, last year's crop saw no PYO-ers but it didn't go to waste and was picked and packaged and sent to local business for their veg box supplies.
Not everyone has the speed-picking prowess, however, of staff, sisters Pauline and Heather Driver, out in the neighbouring field, cutting the crop. "It isn't back-breaking when you're short," laughs Pauline, who has been picking on the farm for some 30 years.
"And it is lovely being out in the fresh air," adds Heather.
If you want to join them, and pick some yourself, you have until June 21 to do it - no cutting is allowed after this date as it can damage the following year's crop.
And if you can't make that, there's produce to take you right through to Instagrammable PYO pumpkin season.
Lower Ladysden Farm is at Winchett Hill, Goudhurst. There is no need to pre-book for PYO asparagus. Other PYO bookings have not opened yet.
Find out more at lowerladysden.co.uk