Fruit and Vegetable Picking in Israel
Farming is a big deal in Israel. No, seriously! The first Jewish immigrants to the country (decades before the State of Israel was established) went not just to cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but also to remote areas across the country, with the deliberate aim of settling and cultivating the land. Whether it was the barren Negev desert or swampy malarial parts of the Galilee and Jordan Valley, they were determined to make things grow.
Today, just over a century later, for Israeli farmers living on kibbutzim and moshavim (collective and semi-collective settlements) their work is, in some ways, still a way of fulfilling the dream their forefathers had of being a free people in their own land. Israeli farmers, today, are not just growing produce to be self-sufficient but they also feel a strong connection to their land. Oh, and they’re contributing to Israel’s economy too!
And when you travel out of Israel’s big cities, you can see the fruits of their labor (no pun intended!) everywhere. Israel’s a world leader in new and innovative agricultural techniques (think hydroponic tomatoes and vertical farming) and when you’re in the Golan Heights, the Galilee, or even the desert, you’re never far from a vegetable field or a fruit orchard.
Cherry orchard in Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana MatsEvery Israeli child learns about the ‘halutzim’ (pioneers) in school and one really fun and creative way to keep that tradition alive is by taking them on a day trip to one of these places to pick vegetables and berries. Fruit picking and vegetable picking are an activity that’s great for all the family. After all, whether you’re old and young, it’s nice to be out in the fresh air, plucking something straight from the ground or tree.
It’s also incredibly rewarding, as a parent, to teach your children that fruits and vegetables don’t grow in the supermarket. Whether it’s strawberries, cherries, beets, or carrots, the feeling you get as you (literally) get your hands dirty, is a fantastic one. And the best part? Not only do you get to pop a few fruits in your mouth (all you can eat, very often) but you take a basket or two home at the end of the day.
Fruit and vegetable picking (katifim) is very popular in Israel. Let’s have a look at some of the places you can pick fruits, vegetables, and berries in Israel, take tours of the local areas you’re in, and also find overnight accommodation in Israel on the farms themselves or in the locale.
Bustan Bereshit Farm, Golan Heights
Located in the Golan Heights, this is probably the largest fruit picking site in Israel. With around 100 dunams of land at their disposal, you can pick all kinds of seasonal fruits, including raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, sweet and sour cherries, apples (all varieties, even from Asia), figs, grapes, peaches, and nectarines.
Once you’ve paid your entry fee, shuttle buses will transport you out to the fields and then you can get picking, straightaway! Admission is 37 NIS (12 USD) and includes a tour in a tractor car for the entire family. Bustan Bereshit also offers a variety of attractions - rope-climbing, horseback riding (and pony riding for younger kids), an ‘animal corner', and even baking classes.
There are shady areas at which you can relax and picnic, as well as a cafe selling coffee and light refreshments. There’s also a store that sells all kinds of produce made in the Golan. Bustan Bereshit, Ein Zivan. Tel: 04 688 3512.
Picking cherries, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana Mats
Strawberries Meshik Farm, Hod HaSharon, Central Israel
Just half an hour's drive from Tel Aviv is this wonderful strawberry farm where there are all kinds of delicious strawberries. Even better, each year they introduce a new variety, so if you come back you’ll never be bored. It’s a little bit more expensive than your average fruit-picking farm but definitely worth it. Tut Meshek, Asirey Tsiyon St, Hod Hasharon. Tel: 052 591 2244
Hapardes Hakasum, Central Israel
Just 15 minutes drive from Tel Aviv, close to the city of Petach Tikva, lies HaPardes Hakasum. Pardes means ‘ orchard’ in Hebrew and this is a good place for the whole family to spend time. As well as guided fruit picking Israel tours, they also have craft tables, a petting zoo, soft play, and a pita-making class. The function hall is a good place to hold a birthday party for a group of youngsters. HaPardes HaKassum, Hashlosha 1, Kfar Ma'as. Tel: 050 2566 0206.
Picking berries, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana Mats
Meshek Levy - Sha’al Berry Picking, Golan Heights
Nestled in the Golan, this farm is run by the Levy family, and here you can pick all kinds of wonderful fruits, including figs, sabras (Israel’s national fruit) and clementines, sweet and sour cherries, blueberries, mulberries, Chinese dates, and both red and yellow raspberries. The site is open from May to October and offers competitive picking prices.
There’s a cafeteria, offering light bites and a sandbox and animal petting corner for young kids. All produce sold is kosher mehadrin and the site is closed on Shabbat. You can also camp at the Levy family’s moshav (they have a dedicated site) or if you’re looking for a little more comfort, book one of their rustic cabins. They also offer jeep tours and night safaris...a real adventure for those who like to live dangerously…Meshek Levy, Sha’al, Golan, Tel: 052 460 0465.
‘Farming Circus’ Moshav Yogev, Emek Israel, Central Israel
Always popular with kids, here your kids can enjoy themselves in more ways than one. This agricultural circus is unique in Israel in that it teams up agricultural activities with a circus show - hilarity, juggling acts, and even a ride on a unicycle!
The moshav has organic gardens and if you take the tour, it includes a visit to their greenhouse, where you can learn more about their Italian planting hydroponic system. In the winter, you have the chance to pick all kinds of vegetables, including beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, kohlrabi, and potatoes. You pay for entry to the circus and then have the option after to pay to pick. Agricultural Circus, Moshav Yogev, Emek Jezreel. Tel: 073 374 4211.
The Orchard, Moshav Beit Hillel
Moshav Beit Hillel lies on the banks of the Hasbani river, about 3 kms from Kiryat Shmona in the Golan Heights. It’s a great place to pick your own vegetables and seasonal fruits, and the guides give a lot of detail. After you’ve picked your produce, you can make salads and drink tea.
There’s a picnic area with benches, a coffee shop and a good Italian restaurant called ‘Cheese’ (we’d recommend trying the gnocchi and, for dessert, their delectable cheesecake). They also offer bike trips along the Snir River and Kfar Blum kibbutz, close by, can organize kayaking tours. Moshav Beit Hillel, Upper Galilee Tel: 052 525 7671.
Shvil HaSalat Farm
Down in the Negev, ‘Shvil ha Salat’ (which means’ Salad Trail’) is the perfect opportunity to tour greenhouses and eat your way through them at the same time! In their Tomato Greenhouse, you learn about how these sweet treats grow upwards and in the Greenhouse of Flying Strawberries, you’ll find out why water and a certain kind of soil make them such a tasty fruit. And don’t miss the Orchard or Chinese Oranges either - afterwards, you can make necklaces out of the fruit!
Shvil HaSalat also offers kids the opportunity to bake bread with olive oil and za’atar (a local spice) with Bedouins, then head off to the Field of Carrots, where the whole family can pick a bunch of these orange goodies, then take them home and make them into juices, soups or lunch snacks. Fun and nutritious! Shvil HaSalat, Nachal haBasor, Negev region. Tel: 08 998 2225.
Cabbage picking. Photo credit: © Oksana Mats
Ktofoti, Bethlehem of Galilee, Galilee
Located in the Galilee near Kiryat Tivon, around 10 ms north-west of Nazareth, this self-picking farm is a wonderful place with all kinds of fruits and veggies - think strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lettuces, potatoes, carrots, onions, cauliflower, and even artichokes. There are also guides in the fields, who are very helpful. Entrance is 45 NIS (14 USD) per person (which includes anyone over two years old) although every fourth family member pays 40 NIS (12,5 USD).
You then pay 30 NIS per family basket or 20 NIS for a small basket. Everybody above two years old must purchase a ticket). And every fourth family member pays 40 NIS. Moreover, you pay 30 NIS per family basket or 20 NIS for a small basket. It’s not super cheap but a lot of fun and, if you look on the web, you might find some coupons, giving you a discount.
Kurlender Farm, Golan Heights
Situated high up in the Golan region, the Kurlander farm, on the banks of the Hasbani river, has been run for decades by three generations of farmers. They operate a state-of-the-art dairy farm and, for young families, this can be a wonderful day trip. Their English-speaking guides are helpful and informative and on any tour, everyone gets a taste of their chocolate milk and some samples of cheese. You’re even given the opportunity to learn to milk a cow, and the kids can bottle feed the calvers!
Kurlender also sells grapefruits, tangerines, and oranges in the winter, and other produce made locally including honey and olive oil. Oh, and if you travel there on Friday you can sample one of their famous ‘Galilee breakfasts’ - a delicious dairy feast! There’s plenty of accommodation nearby, including a guesthouse, zimmers and even a spa.
Be’er Tuvia, Negev region
When it comes to flowers, who doesn’t love anemones and buttercups? These gorgeous buds, also known as Ranunculus (‘Nuriot’ in Hebrew), tend to flower at the end of April, for about a month. Visiting this place is therefore the perfect springtime activity.
Be’er Tuvia is a moshav near Kiryat Malachi, which is about an hour 10 minutes drive from Tel Aviv. The entrance is 40 NIS per family - for this, you will be given some scissors and a plastic can (to put the flowers you’ve picked). If you don’t want to pick, you can just pay 20 NIS and take photos of the masses of red, yellow, pink, and white flowers that surround you. You won’t be disappointed.