Spring is in the air, so I thought it a good idea to remind readers about our excellent local farmer’s markets and farm shops. There is a farmer’s market almost every Sunday morning (see box) so you could give the supermarket a miss one weekend, and head outside instead.
The quality of produce at our local farmer’s markets is excellent. You can buy plenty of basics, including well-priced vegetables and fruit and very tasty bread, and some treats, such as excellent cakes, biscuits and cheese.
You know the veg and fruits will be grown locally, so have very low food miles. Most will have been picked the day before so you know it is in season, and will be fresh and nutritious. Prices are often better than in the supermarkets, so bring some large bags so you can take plenty home.
One stall to look out for is Earthworks. They grow organic fruit, vegetables, herbs and plants on their site in St Albans, and pick what is ready just before market day. They also produce their own apple juice, honey and chutney. Any profits from the stall go back to the Earthworks project and help to keep the site running. Look out too for their hand-made bird boxes and tables, which make a lovely gift.
Redbournbury Mill produces their own flour, with some of the grain being grown in fields near Harpenden. They produce high quality breads, including white, granary, seeded and nut breads, all of which are baked on the premises. Look out for their spelt range.
Another local gem is The Pudding Stop run by Jonathan Shepherd. Johnny became well-known locally when he appeared on The Great British Bake-Off. He makes terrific traditional puddings and tarts in the bakery at Redbournbury Mill, and I can recommend the lemon tart and chocolate cake! He sells large whole puds or quarters, which are enough for a generous serving for two. One of the good things about the farmer’s markets is that you can get to know the producers and they are very good at customer care. For example, if you want one of Johnny’s puds on a non-market day, you can email him (website is http://www.thepuddingstop.com) to see if he has any left.
I always go to the Country Markets stall for their excellent home-made jams and marmalades. The home-made cakes and biscuits are very good and excellent value. Look out too for vegetable curries, which make a good mid-week supper or lunch. (We have also bought hand-knitted mittens too, but that’s not strictly relevant for a food column!)
You can find more unusual items at the market too, including ostrich, well-hung beef, smoked fish and hearty game pies. Many stalls will put out samples for you to try so you can try something new. We introduced our children to curried food this way – everything looks more appealing to children when laid out to try.
In Wheathampstead don’t forget to go into the nearby hall for tea and biscuits provided by the Women’s Institute. Look out too for local award-winner Charlie Powell in her Soko coffee van. Charlie makes excellent fairtrade coffee (she is usually parked by St Albans train station).
Earthworks is not really a “shop” but you can go and buy produce. When you turn up to the site, check the display board on the hut door to see what is available and prices, and if you want to buy something, wander onto the site and find someone to help you. In most cases, they will pick what you need so it is as fresh as possible. You can usually buy logs too. They are open Monday to Friday (9.30 til 3 pm).
Carpenter’s Nursery has been a Sandridge institution for years. They grow excellent vegetables, fruit, herbs and plants on their local site and they are open most days, so you can buy local even when the markets are not on. They also sell eggs and some preserves.
Battler’s Green Farm in Radlett has an excellent collection of foodie shops, with plenty of local produce. Even if you don’t live nearby, it is worth a trip over there, especially to the fishmongers.
The farm shop at Willows is free to enter – you don’t have to go into the children’s farm. The butcher’s has a good local reputation and there is plenty of local produce there too. It is quite a large shop so not everything will come from Hertfordshire, but it is a place where you can support the small producer.
I plan to write about the Saturday and Wednesday St Albans market soon, so watch this space.
St Albans Farmers’ Market (town centre)
2nd Sunday of each month. 10-3.
Wheathampstead Farmers’ Market (East Lane carpark)
3rd Sunday of each month. 10-1.
Harpenden Farmers’ Market (town centre)
4th Sunday of each month. 10-2.
Earthworks (Hixberry Lane, St Albans)
Battlers Green Farm (Common Lane, Radlett)
A good farm shop with butchers and fishmongers. They are listed in The Independent’s Top 50 Farm Shops.
Carpenters Nursery (St Albans Road, Sandridge)
Mon-Sat 8-5.30, Sun 9-1.
Willows Farm Shop (London Colney, St Albans)
Open every day. 10-5.30.
Tell me about your favourite local stall at: https://thelocalfoodie.wordpress.com