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Picking fruit and playing farmer

THROUGHOUT Shanghai's rural suburbs, fruits and vegetables are ripe for the picking and urbanites are playing farmer for a day, harvesting produce, strolling in the fresh air and enjoying real country cooking. Chen Ye grabs her basket.

Many young urban Chinese are hooked on virtual farming on where they can own land, plant, pick, buy, sell and even swipe someone else's veggies.

But it's time to join the real world for a peach of a time, at least in spring and summer, and harvest real fresh fruits and vegetables from real soil.

Suburban farms encourage visitors to come and pick to their heart's content (for a price), to enjoy the countryside, do a bit of farm work, go horseback riding, sit by the old fishing hole, or just enjoy some fresh country cooking. Many farmers provide recreational activities.

Wenlei Garden Jinshan District

The garden has been likened by some visitors to a fairytale setting covering around 900 hectares, much of it planted in peaches and strawberries.

It's time to pick strawberries and some peaches; summer is for red grapes and flat peaches; jujubes are ripe in winter. Red grapes have been called the "treasure" of Wenlei Garden.

If you go:

Drive: S4 Expressway (Shanghai-Jinshan)-Tingwei Exit-Jinshan Road-Rongwei Road

Cost: strawberries 12 yuan/kilo (US$1.76/kilo)

Huating Family Jiading District

There is a famous saying - "Anting is famous for industry, Huating is famous for agriculture."

Huating Family, an agricultural park in northern Jiading District, offers abundant produce in a riverside setting and comfortable hostels for those who want to spend the night.

The list of nature's bounty is long: strawberries, pears, peaches, cantaloupes and many kinds of melon, to name just a few, plus organic vegetables.

There's also an aquaculture or mariculture zone filled with carp, turtle and fish. People can catch their own, or let someone else do the fishing.

Visitors can adopt a pear tree and as it grows they learn to fertilize it (organically of course) and prune it.

And in a few years when peaches come into season, people pick pears with their family and friends.

Strawberries are still in season (but it's ending) and there're lots of other fruits and vegetables in Huating Town.

Visitors can rent a well-appointed wood cottage for the night, chat with farmers and join them for a meal.

It is about a 45 minutes' drive from downtown to Huating Family.

If you go:

Drive: S5 Expressway (Shanghai-Jiading)-Jiading Nanmen Exit-Jiajian Road-Liuxiang Road-Shuangzhu Road-Huating Family

Cost: strawberries 15 yuan/kilo; vegetable 5 yuan/kilo; pear tree adoption 300 yuan each

Wushe Agriculture and Leisure Garden Songjiang District

The 3,000-hectare garden on the southern bank of the Huangpu River is famous for fresh air, unspoiled countryside scenes and clean water.

Visitors can pick tomatoes and papayas, among many other fruits. In spring, it's fresh organic grapes and corn; in autumn, people can harvest organic rice; in winter, they can appreciate greenhouse orchids.

The garden includes a popular science hall and a botanical garden.

If you go:

Drive: G60 Expressway (Shanghai-Kunshan)-Xinbin Exit-8 Xishe Road

Cost: Tomatoes 2-3 yuan/kilo;

cucumbers 1 yuan each; eggplants 2 yuan/kilo

Admission: 15 yuan Shenya Farm Holiday Village Fengxian District

The farm village is inside Qingcun Town, only around 40 kilometers and a 45 minutes' drive from downtown Shanghai.

The spot has been named an "Expo Tourism Site" combining leisure, fruit-picking, sightseeing and creativity.

May is the best time topick peaches.

The Shenya Peach Festival is underway through mid-June. All the trees were imported from Israel, which developed a super-healthy variety, doubling the microelements of most ordinary peaches.

If you go:

Drive: Lupu Bridge-Puxing Road-Nanfeng Road

Cost: peaches 30 yuan/kilo; almonds 50 yuan/kilo; pumpkins 10 yuan each; multi-color tomatoes 8 yuan/kilo; cucumbers 2 yuan/kilo; pumpkin painting 15 yuan each

Admission: 32 yuan a person; 55 yuan for two; 70 yuan for a family of three


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