Like so much of summer, fresh local produce can be enjoyed for only a short time. Sure, you can stop at a farm stand, but why not go one better and go straight to the source? A number of area farmers open their fields to willing pickers and let you take home your harvest. Prices vary depending on the crop, ranging from $2 to $4.50 a pound for fruits and vegetables and 50 cents a stem to $4 a bunch for cut flowers. Call ahead to confirm what's ready for picking.
91 Frost Road, Tyngsboro. 978-649-7629. Open daily 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
If you've got a hankering for fresh vegetables, brothers Ken and Doug Times have laid the groundwork for you, planting rows of tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant , and pumpkins that will be ready for picking later this month. All you have to do is grab a half-bushel or bushel basket and fill 'er up.
Route 117, Stow. 978-897-2699. Open daily10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Wednesdays. www.applefieldfarm.com
Owned and operated by Steve, Kirsten, and Ray Mong since 1981, Applefield Farm boasts 25 acres of peas, beans, herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, and mint), kale, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers -- all available for picking. If you're in the market for a centerpiece, wildflowers are also in bloom: snapdragons, cosmos, zinnias, bachelor buttons, marigolds, and statice.
184 Gleasondale Road (Route 62), Stow. 978-897-5996. Open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Just up the road from Applefield Farm, Small Farm is, well, smaller, but this month its fields runneth over. You'll find beets, swiss chard, scallions, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant ready to be plucked and plated. Barbara and Dwight Sipler will sell them to you by the pound; it's up to you to find the perfect recipe.
Morehouse's Wheeler Brook Farm
57 Jewett St., Georgetown. 978-352-8289. Open daily 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Those who want to escape the crowds should make the drive to Morehouse's Wheeler Brook Farm to pick blueberries. You'll find an old-fashioned serve-yourself stand that operates on the honor system. Tuck your money in the cash box, take a green cardboard pint box in hand, and head out into the rolling green fields to harvest blueberries under blue skies.
C.N. Smith Farm Inc
325 South St., East Bridgewater. 508-378-2270. Open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. www.cnsmithfarminc.com
Out in East Bridgewater, the third generation of the Smith family has cultivated 90-plus acres of fruit and vegetables, and they'd love some help with the harvest. Blueberries, raspberries, and apples await your eager fingers. Stop by this month for the Corn Festival (call to confirm the dates), which features free samples of sweet corn in all its forms -- on the cob and in relishes, salsas, and preserves. If your kids aren't up to a day in the fields, send them to check out the roosters and goats in the pen out front.
30 Valley Road, Danvers. 978-777-1245. Open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m. www.connorsfarm.com
At Connors Farm in Danvers, grab a pint box, and head for the blueberry and raspberry bushes overlooking the pond. Or make a beeline for the flowers and cut your own bouquet. Late this month peaches will be ripe for the picking. The stand also houses a virtual grocery store with fresh produce, meats, home-baked pies, flats of perennials, and sundries.
Tangerini's Spring Street Farm
139 Spring Street St., Millis. 508-376-5024. Open daily 9 a.m.-dus k. www.tangerinisfarm.com
Those who truly want to get their hands dirty should head to Tangerini's Spring Street Farm for ``u-dig" potatoes. Blueberries and raspberries are also ready for pies and jams. When you've had your fill of fieldwork, take a stroll on the walking trail or grab a bite at the ice cream shop and greenhouse café.
11 Wheeler Road, Concord. 978-369-4494. Open daily 9 a.m.-7 p.m. www.verrillfarm.com
Concrete-jungle residents with itchy green thumbs will want to adopt the fields of Verrill Farm as their own. Orderly rows of sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, zinnias, snap dragons, statice, salvia, and more seem to stretch for miles. Grab a pair of scissors (or bring your own) and snip the best of the bunch.