Montrose Berry Farm

When I was growing up in New Zealand every time it was berry season my parents would drive us a short distance to where the berry farms were located.  We’d look for signs saying, ‘Pick Your Own’ and we’d turn into those driveways and spend a few hours filling buckets with raspberries, blackberries, loganberries and my favourite, boysenberries.  It was a day I loved and certainly, with ruby-red stains around your mouth it was obvious you ate about as many as you collected.

The cottage

Where wedding receptions are held

Moving across the Tasman to Sydney (where the climate was warmer and there was none of that cold weather necessary for a thriving berry cane), put a stop to our berry picking days and they became a thing of the past.

Beautiful established gardens

Beautiful established gardens

But berries are now being grown not just in cooler climates like Tasmania, but also in places not far from Sydney like the Southern Highlands.  The two berries most commonly grown in Australia are raspberries and blackberries.  These are grown in Southern Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.  Different varieties are grown to allow for the berries to be picked for a longer period of time.  Raspberries are now available year-round with a peak season throughout summer, while you start seeing blackberries around Christmas time and on until late March.

Summer setting

Summer setting

A few weeks ago I was delighted to be invited to once again experience berry picking.  Along with other media, I was picked up in a mini-bus and off we went to Sutton Forest in the Highlands.  It was a very hot summer’s day but it was a clean, dry heat, not the sticky humidity we endure in Sydney.

Entrance gates

Entrance gates

Montrose Berry Farm sits on land that was once a long-running sheep station.  The centrepiece of the property is without question, the circa 1861 heritage-listed homestead that’s situated amongst established flowering gardens and accessed by a tree-lined gravel driveway that winds its way from the impressive iron gates to the homestead.

Homestead

Homestead

The berry farm is just a 90-minute drive from Sydney and when in season, the public is invited to come and ‘pick your own’.  There is a modest entry fee and this includes 500gms of fruit.  After that, you pay for the fruit you pick by the kilo and it is very good value compared to prices paid in stores.

Circa 1861 homestead

Circa 1861 homestead

Montrose Berry Farm is owned by farmer Bruce Robertson and his wife, Fiona, a professional chef.  On their farm they have a full range of berries including blueberries, red raspberries, loganberries,  boysenberries, autumn raspberries and red currants.  They also grow hazelnuts and have a variety of fruit trees.

The shop/office

The shop/office

The berries are grown without the use of pesticides however, a few herbicides are used.  All the berries are handpicked and the Robertsons employ backpackers to pick the berries.  Depending on the conditions the backpackers will start very early in the morning, take a break during the heat of the day, then continue picking until the sun goes down.  The berry pickers are paid not by the hour but by how many buckets they fill so you want to be quick with your work.

Blackberries ready for picking

Blackberries ready for picking

We walked the short distance from the homestead to the rows of blackberries.  Blackberries and raspberries look very similar until the blackberries begin to darken.  However the major difference between the two berries is that blackberries have a white core while the raspberry has no core.

Rows of blackberry bushes

Rows of blackberry bushes

Blackberry season was coming to its end and so the rows of canes weren’t looking their best however, there were still plenty of blackberries and the ones I picked were plump, ripe and extremely sweet.  Unlike wild blackberries, these canes have no thorns so picking them isn’t a hellish experience.  I found picking my own berries to be very enjoyable, quite relaxing and an extremely welcome break from a day at the office.

Rows of blackberry bushes

Rows of blackberry bushes

Montrose Berry Farm makes a range of quality products you can purchase from the on-site shop.  There are berry vinegars, jams, chutneys and jellies.  The partnership of farmer and chef is an excellent one with Fiona using the berries from their farm to make beautiful pies that have the most wonderful melt-in-the-mouth pastry.  We were welcomed onto the property with a just-baked mini raspberry pie served with whipped cream.

Handmade raspberry mini pies

Handmade raspberry mini pies

Berry Vinegars

Berry Vinegars and Pear Vinegar

Artisan products made on site

Artisan products made on site

I’m so thrilled fresh berries are becoming more readily available throughout the year.  They are excellent to enjoy just on their own and often after a day of school, Alfie and I stop by the fruit shop and buy a punnet or two of berries and the little guy eats them on his way home.

Blackberries

Blackberries

It’s not a good idea to wash them but you can rinse them gently just before eating.  To keep them at their best, store in the fridge and bring to room temperature to serve.  If you want to freeze fresh berries, it’s best to spread them out on a tray then freeze and when frozen, store in zip-lock bags.

Love this tree

Love this tree

At Montrose Berry Farm, it’s not all about the berries.  This historic estate is also the scene where many weddings take place.  In fact, the property is so popular there’s a wedding at least once a week.  One of the attractions to having a wedding at Montrose (apart from the stunning setting, the beautiful venue that seats 100, and Montrose Cottage where the bride and groom can stay on site), is that you can self-cater allowing you greater control over your budget.

Bird feeder

Bird feeder

With its very distinct four seasons, the Southern Highlands has much to offer a tourist, however, if visiting Montrose Berry Farm I would recommend being there when it’s the season to pick your own berries.  Driving back home with a box full of freshly picked berries and contemplating how you will best enjoy them is a wonderful experience.

Entrance gates

Entrance gates

Montrose Berry Farm:  Ormond Street, Sutton Forest NSW 2577

Ph:  02 4868 1544

A country driveway

A country driveway

Comments

  1. What a lovely treat for you, Charlie. We have a lot of wild blackberries on our farm and, between watching our for snakes and watching out for thorns, picking can be a very nerve-wracking experience!

  2. I too have delicious childhood memories of picking berries – mostly blackberries on farms in Taranaki. How amazing to be able to pick blackberries without being stabbed by thorns! It sounds as if you had a good time.

  3. I love their products, Charlie… berry picking at Montrose must be a lovely experience xx

  4. Lovely setting and great for your health as well

  5. How I love fresh berries. I have such fond memories of picking wild blackberries and selling them to monbulk jam factory as a child.

  6. I love fresh fruit picking. Our most enjoyable experience was however in NZ where they let us eat as we picked which was incredibly generous. Mr NQN ate so many!

  7. A friend and I were talking about picking berries but I thought we missed the season so it is interesting to hear they are still about north of us – looks like an interesting place

  8. What a fun recall back to your childhood exhibitions. I hope to make it berry picking one British summer but in the meantime am harboring raspberries of my own now – except I think it will be years before they give me any berries!

  9. Picking your own fruit always makes me feel like a kid again. It also makes you realise why berry prices are so high – the hand-picking process makes you appreciate the labour cost!

  10. How great to get to experience it again! I’ve only been berry picking once and I loved it so much. I can’t wait til the boys are a bit bigger. Ollie is obsessed with blackberries too. They were on special at Aldi the other day and he ate a whole punnet in about 5 minutes. What a beautiful spot for a wedding too.

  11. What a pretty spot!! I too grew up berry picking and really miss it. 🙂

  12. Oh, you’re making me yearn for summer! I need a berry fix BIG time!!! xx

  13. Ahhh berry nice indeed, (sorry, had to be done 🙂
    Love berries and love the Southern Highlands, it’s a win win I say.

  14. What a lovely, dreamy place.

  15. What fun and how exciting that you’re always being invited on such exciting adventures and sight seeing. What a lovely farm! I can’t wait for berry season! Right now they are brought up from California and Mexico and cost an arm and a leg. Can’t wait until they’re abundant and we can pick our own.

    ~ Aprl

  16. How wonderful, looks like a lovely little spot for a weekend getaway, totes jealous Charlie, isnt it funny the way our holidays feel like they were forever ago, when really it was only a few months back. I love, love, love me some wild blackberries, I have been seeing a real trend in Canberra, folk are foraging for them. I wish I was that brave. Will stick to my farmers markets berries.

  17. This place is gorgeous! And those mini pies are making me hungry ♥

    summerdaisy.net

  18. What a beautiful place. Those mini-pies are adorable and look so inviting! What fun to pick blackberries on a thorn-less cane. I’d pick those, too!

  19. Such a gorgeous property! We have just picked blueberries for the kids here in Coffs Harbour! It’s so satisfying (and cheap) to pick your own.
    I wouldn’t mind a pie with my coffee 🙂
    Thanks for sharing
    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

  20. I don’t usually say this, but I’m seriously finding myself envious of such a place as Montrose Berry Farm. I would just LOVE to pick so many different berries and to probably come close to getting my fill! I love berries of all kinds, and although we can grow some of the varieties, our local climate is generally too warm. I’ve had some modest success, but that’s it. What a special place. And I can see why weddings would be very popular here! Such a nice post, Charlie!

  21. Considering how expensive berries are for how much I eat (haha), I would LOVE to live in berry farm and this place is so green and gorgeous!!! I want to have a berry farm if I could!!! Imagine endless berries to eat. ^_^ Such a lucky opportunity, Charlie!

  22. What a great day you had Charlie. Thanks for telling is about this i must do it one day

  23. LOVE visiting places like this. I’d stuff myself silly with all those berries! Sounds like a fun time — thanks.

  24. What a great outing! Thanks for taking us along. The raspberry tarts look amazing. I love berry season,

  25. What a great day trip to do with kids from Sydney – will share on my FB page!

  26. Love the sound of fresh berries. It was a common outing when I was young growing up in the UK to go blackberry picking.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Biota is a stunning two-hatted restaurant in Bowral in the Southern Highlands.  I was fortunate to enjoy lunch at Biota after spending the morning picking blackberries at Montrose Berry Farm. […]

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