It's cherry-picking season!

A few of the farms where you can have a fun time picking cherries.

A young girl picks cherries (photo credit: ADI PERETZ)
A young girl picks cherries
(photo credit: ADI PERETZ)
It feels like the sun has been hotter this May than ever before, and the cherries and berries growing around the country are ripe and ready to be picked and eaten. If you drive by a grove of cherry trees, you’ll see that they are bursting full of juicy fruit and are just waiting for people to come and pluck them off. Going cherry picking is a favorite pastime among Israelis, who love to fill up basket after basket of the precious fruit.
Despite the considerable heat, you and your family members will actually be protected for much of the time by the leaves and branches of the cherry trees. If you prefer, you can spend a short amount of time picking cherries, and then continue with a short hike along a stream or a dip in a local natural spring. You can get a head start by beginning your day early in the morning before temperatures rise. If you live far away, you can even make a mini-vacation out of the trip and stay overnight in a local bed and breakfast or hotel.
Here are a few of the farms where you can have a fun time picking cherries:
If you love being spontaneous, you can just jump in your car with friends and family and go join the traditional cherry-picking festival in Gush Etzion that begins this morning, Friday, June 1, at Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim and will continue until 2:30 p.m. You can go out into the grove to pick and eat as many cherries as you wish (additional charge for cherries you wish to take home with you). Other agricultural produce will be available for purchase, and there will also be an arts and crafts corner, food tastings, pita baking, a petting zoo and live musical performances.
This one-day festival is just the kickoff for cherry-picking season; the public is invited to go cherry and berry picking all through June in a number of locations spread throughout the country. You’ll find an assortment of sour cherries, sweet cherries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries and strawberries. Best to call ahead to make sure that picking will be possible on specific dates.
Kashuela Farm, located in the Lamed-Heh Forest, is a wonderful place that offers visitors a fun day of picking blueberries and raspberries. At Petel Bahar, near Eretz Ha’ayalim, you can pick sweet cherries, sour cherries, raspberries, blackberries, mulberries and strawberries.
Rides to the festival will be organized from the parking area near Alon Shvut.
Entrance fee: NIS 30.
One of the most popular locations in northern Israel to go cherry picking is Bustan Bereshit. Located near Kibbutz Ein Zivan, visitors are welcome to eat as much as they want of the raspberries, blackberries and Asian pears. In addition to fruit picking, guests can enjoy browsing through the exposition of agricultural tools, get rid of all their energy jumping in the wet moonbounces, learn how to make braided flower garlands, complete a rope course, pet animals or purchase locally grown produce. And if you’d like to make a holiday out of your trip, there are plenty of rooms available at the Ein Zivan Village Resort for overnight stays.
Dates: Sundays-Thursdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price: NIS 35. Entrance fee includes all-you-can-eat fruit picking. Baskets of fruit can also be purchased to take home.
Details: (04) 699-3610/12.
The trees at Moshav Odem in the Golan Heights are full of ripe cherries and picking season is officially open for business. Here, you’ll find four types of organic cherries and berries. Visitors can also listen to an explanation about the different varieties of fruits that grow on the moshav and the ideal way to pick the fruit. There are plenty of shady places around the moshav where you can stop for a little rest, or you can visit the petting zoo, the cafe or the art gallery. Visitors are allowed to spread out their picnics or hold barbecues in designated areas around the moshav. One of the most popular activities to engage in on the moshav is horseback riding, which will lead you along the most beautiful scenic trails.
If you’d like to engage in a wet and adventurous activity, I recommend going cherry picking at Kibbutz Hagoshrim. This way, you can combine fruit picking with a kayak ride on the Hatzbani River, a particularly great combination for families with kids. The family ride is about five kilometers long and takes about 90 minutes to complete.
Dates: Sundays through Thursdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: NIS 22 for fruit picking. Kayaking + fruit picking: NIS 77 until end of June.
Details: 077-271-7500
Near the Druse village Bukata, which sits at an altitude of 1,070 meters above sea level, you’ll find Roni’s fruit orchard, an enchanting fruit grove that sits at the foot of Mount Hermon and Mount Varda. Roni’s orchard is home to apple and cherry trees, the latter of which are full of plump fruits ready to be picked. Bukata, one of only four Druse villages in the Golan Heights, is one of most beautiful spots in the region. Most of the residents work in agriculture, and have an incredible amount of knowledge of apples and cherries. Of course, there are also ample places to partake in traditional Druse delicacies, such as warm Druse pitot dipped in locally made spreads.
Price: NIS 25
Hours: All week, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m
Details: 050-201-6416
At Ktofoti in Beit Lehem Haglilit, visitors can pick strawberries, mulberries and blackberries to their hearts’ desire. The fields are located right next to the Spice Farm, and in addition to berries, visitors can also pick corn, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and melons. In addition to picking fruits and vegetables, guests can engage in other activities such as pumping water from ancient pumps and then watering flowerbeds, or feeding goats.
Dates: Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price: Entrance NIS 45; fruit baskets NIS 25.
Details: 054-550-7480.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.