There’s nothing quite like the feeling of plucking a radish out of the earth. It’s you and Mother Nature, exchanging a fundamental part of the life cycle. Pull a few of them, along with a couple of handfuls of spinach or kale, and you’re likely to get some soft, rich soil on your hands, which is a charming alternative to fussing with plastic produce bags in the grocery store.
One of the Valley’s best places to do your own fruit and vegetable picking has long been Gilcrease Orchard, part of what once was a 900-acre ranch settled by the Gilcrease family in 1920. The 60-acre orchard is open to visitors who’d like a reprieve from city life. Here, you can walk down dirt rows with the sun on your face and the breeze at your back while gathering your harvest. Admission is free, and the produce is less expensive than in the grocery store. I paid $3 for a bunch of asparagus, some collard greens and several radishes. Kids are welcome, and by the looks of things on a recent Saturday, they come in handy if you need someone to haul your bounty on a little red wagon.
Right now, the orchard has arugula, several varieties of kale and lettuce, spinach, bok choy, collards, asparagus and turnips available for picking from 7 a.m.-noon Saturdays. But spring is on the way—pink and white apple and pear blossoms are starting to draw bees—and the apricots are expected to be the first fruits ripe in April. By May, row upon row of plums, figs and peaches will be ready for picking, and hours will be extended.
The best way to keep apprised of the crops and hours is to sign up for the newsletter at TheGilcreaseOrchard.org. The orchard is located in the northwest Valley at 7800 N. Tenaya Way, between Elkhorn Road and Grand Teton Drive. Bring a bag … or three!