The concept of “pick your own” farms – harvest, weigh and pay yourself – already exists in Anglo-Saxon countries for some time. In Belgium however, it is not a well known concept yet. Purfruit in Oeselgem was born about 17 years ago and was one of the first places in our country where you can harvest fruit yourself. We paid Bart Van Parijs and Nele Deweirdt, who give their hearts and souls for ‘Purfruit‘ and ‘Bio Van Bij Ons‘ a visit.
Pick your own…
Families with children, a couple of teenagers, an elderly couple… On Saturdays, especially when the weather is nice, it’s quite busy at Purfruit. The harvest season is short, but intense. From June till September there are deliciously ripe raspberries, currants (black and white), cassis, gooseberries and rhubarb just begging to be picked. Upon arrival you can read on a chalkboard what the offer of the day will be. Armed with a picking bucket you can immediately get started. In the plantations you are free to try the berries of a certain plant to know if they are ripe for picking or not. When you are done picking, everything is weighed to calculate the price. You can then take your fruit home with you (preferably in a home brought container) and start enjoying it.
A shop and a garden to enjoy
Purfruit has a pleasant garden with a nice terrace where you can enjoy a tasty piece of blueberry pie, made by the local bakery with, of course, freshly picked berries. The kids can meanwhile play undisturbed in the garden. That is why this location is also very popular for weddings, spring and family celebrations. In the shop you can buy other products made with fresh fruit from the garden and also some special things like elderflower wine and tea selected and compiled by Ann Vansteenkiste and much more.
Thé recommended drink here is the blueberry juice, made out of 100% organic berries. Manager Bart Van Parijs tells us with a smile why he also calls this juice ‘misery juice’. The blueberry juice actually finds its origin in a time when the supermarkets did not want to pay a decent price for the berries anymore so the farm had hundreds of kilos to spare. The solution? Press them to get delicious and pure blueberry juice. Something that used to be a necessity is now a must as everybody loves it.
Fruit that keeps longer
Next to picking and enjoying, you can also stock up at the shop to make sure you have your daily bio-fruit-shot at home. This actually shows that the shelf life of fruit does not need to be extremely limited. Besides fresh, you can also have frozen fruit, juice, syrup or jam. This way you can keep fruit in your freezer for up to two years and up to four years in a processed form. Purfruit has all kinds of mix-apple juices pressed with homegrown fruit. The organic syrups are also crafted from the own production. The jams are made at De Wroeter in Limburg, which is a social employment project for disabled people who process fruit in a traditional way to jam.
‘Bio van bij ons’ – local and organic
As you can reach more together than alone, Bart and Nele also play a leading role in the development of ‘Bio van bij ons’. This label guarantees a direct link between the organic farmer and the product. For the moment, this collective includes nine farmers who provide a nice selection of organic jams, juices, confits and syrups that are even used in top restaurants.
Education and wild harvesting
Bart talks passionately about education and its importance to bring man closer to nature again. That is why Purfruit offers an educational program for schools and groups. Next to that, a lot of trainees find (often via Landwijzer) at Purfruit a place where there is room for personal development. In that regard, Ben Brumagne of Forest to Plate was a guest for some time. By travelling to Asia by bike he learned a lot about wild harvesting and nature’s wealth from local herbalists. Bart explains that wild harvesting is actually not allowed in Belgium, which is a pity as, with proper education, so much more could be extracted from nature this way.
Roomer the producer of the elderflower-based aperitif had a similar problem when his drink got very popular. All of a sudden, it became very difficult to find the necessary amount of elderberry flowers. Although the roadsides are often covered with these berries, it is not allowed to pick them because of the legislation on food safety. Luckily they ran into Bart and now Purfruit is able to supply them with the necessary amount of elderberry flowers. Lindemans eand other brands also try to respond to the popularity of elderberry flowers and they get them at Purfruit too. This way we discovered ‘Goedele’s Bloesem’ (Goedele’s blossom) in the shop, a unique Lindemans Geuze based on two kinds of lambik (one and two years old) and elderberry flowers of Purfruit.
If you ask Bart what the future will bring, he simply answers “grow with chaos”. We will see where our path leads us.