When did you last reach into scraggly branches and tug fruits free off a fragrant fruit-laden tree? If you’re itching to go fruit picking in India, you’ll be surprised to know you have plenty of choices. At these gorgeous orchards, you can let the fresh countryside air and the hint of colours on the trees reawaken that primal urge to harvest.
No matter which orchard you end up at, you’ll likely find it well worth the trip just to be able to eat a delectable fruit straight off the tree.The lure of fruit picking will not just feed your own cravings but also help promote an important aspect of India’s fruit growing industry – agro-tourism. So next time you are planning a holiday, do the different and head to India’s orchards to enjoy the fruits of your labour, literally!
1. Apples and Apricots in Himachal Pradesh
Season: June to September
Set against the stunning backdrop of the towering Himalayas, the apple orchards draped on the mountain slopes of Kinnaur, Kotgarh, Rohru, and Sangla are fruit picking heaven. Trek through apple and apricot farms, learn how to make apple jam and try the two popular locally brewed drinks, angoori and ghanti. While the former is made from distinctively flavoured black grapes grown at high altitudes, the latter is made from locally grown apples and apricots.
2. Grapes in Maharashtra
Season: January to mid-May
If you are a wine connoisseur, take a trip to the thriving home vineyards at Nasik, Satara, Beed, and Latur, made famous by winemakers like Sula, York, and Zampa. Stroll through picturesque vineyards, learn how wine is made, stomp on juicy grapes in large wooden tubs, or indulge in a relaxed wine-paired dinner – here, you can do it all. The India Grape Harvest festival, held in February, is a great time to visit these vineyards.
3. Strawberries in Maharashtra and Meghalaya
Season: January to March
Picking strawberries, sparkling like rubies in the sunlight, amidst the scenic vistas of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani is an experience not to be missed for all strawberry aficionados. Jam brand Mapro organises strawberry festivals at both these places in March/April, where you can taste innovative creations like strawberry-flecked bhel. Sohliya, in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district, also hosts a strawberry festival in mid-February, where you can pick farm fresh berries, sample some strawberry wine, relish homemade berry ice cream, and take home large bottles of fruit preserves.
4. Oranges in Punjab and Maharashtra
Season: End-October to February.
The perfect antidote to nippy wintry mornings, picking oranges, kinnows and mandarins on the dewy farms of Punjab is an experience that is all kinds of wonderful. Let the subtle yet zesty tangerine fragrance fill your senses as you take an early morning tractor ride through a farm. A citrus rush also awaits you at Nagpur’s famed orange farms where you can enjoy the unique sweet-sour taste of a Nagpur mandarin.
5. Lychees in Uttarakhand and Bihar
Season: May to June
A lychee tree in picking season is a stunningly beautiful sight. Feast your eyes on nature’s bounty before picking and nibbling on some of the heart shaped flavour-packed little fruits at the lychee orchards. When on the lychee trail, try the special variety called Dehradun Lychee at Saharanpur in Uttarakhand and the famous Shahi Lychee at Muzzafarpur in Bihar –you will love the experience!
6. Mangoes in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh
Season: May to July/August.
To truly savour the mango experience, head into the kingdom of the king of fruits. Pluck juicy mangoes off the trees, bite into the succulent fruit and let the juices run down your chin at the orchards at Garhmukhteshwar in Uttar Pradesh. Ratnagiri, home to the famous Alphonso variety of mangoes, and the peaceful Palshet village in Maharashtra are also two places you should travel to if you love this luscious fruit.
7. Plums, Mulberries and Jamuns in Punjab
Season: March to July
Stroll through large plum orchards, mulberry farms and jamun groves around Amritsar that offer visitors an experience centred around a variety of PYO (Pick Your Own) fruits. Remember to pick up some delicious organic honey from the farms. Did you know that the Khalsa College of Agriculture in Amritsar has created a new variety of plum called the Aalu-Bukhara Amritsari, which is sweeter, more nutritious, and has a seed that doesn’t cling to the flesh? You can try it at their farms.
8. Chikoos in Maharashtra
Season: December to March.
The Maharashtrian belt of Gholvad and Dahanu districts has several picking orchards run by Parsi families where chikoos reign supreme. Organic composting techniques, bee-keeping, vermi-culture, and local harvesting methods – you can learn them all here before picking chikoos fresh off the boughs. Also, enjoy traditional Parsi meals and a fun stay in a treehouse. What’s not to love about this fruit picking bonanza?
9. Pineapples in Manipur
Season: March to September
Northeast India is known for its love of this prickly fruit and the people of Manipur are especially proud of their pineapple produce. This fondness for the fruit is put on display at the Manipur Pineapple Festival, which is held in the last week of August or the first week of September every year. Indulge in a little pick-your-own-pineapple fun, and after filling your basket, check out the festival’s best pineapple competition, pineapple tastings and even a Miss Pineapple Queen contest!