The St Albans Food & Drink Festival takes place 28 Sept-9th October, during the most abundant time of year for local food. It is the time of year when our local churches celebrate with Harvest Festivals. I think this tradition is dying out in primary schools, as they are not always sure what to do with the collected produce, but I think it is right to celebrate seasonal food and showcase what is grown locally. There are some excellent events to go to:
The Apple Day Fair at St Peter’s Church on Saturday 8th October looks to be a really lovely family event.
The orchard at the church was planted just a couple of years ago, by local young offenders and the first St Albans Pippins are now ready to eat. It is full of classic English apple varieties and you will be able to have a tour of the orchard and see what grows well locally. You will also be able to buy apple pies and apple cakes, all home-made by parishioners. I am very curious to try their apple soup!
There will be apple bobbing and games for children, and cider for adults. The apple experts from Shenley Park will be there to show you how you can turn your glut of apples into delicious apple juice and Aylett’s, the local plant nursery are bringing apple trees so if you feel inspired to start your own orchard, you can get some practical advice. The fair will be open from 11.30-3.30 so head up there for something to eat.
Helen Hutchison, one of the wardens at St Peter’s explained to me that the new orchard is part of their project “A Sanctuary in the City” and they have planted areas of the churchyard with fruit trees and flowers. “We’d like to encourage people to engage with issues about sustainable living and climate change such as growing your own and buying locally. It’s part of our commitment to “shrinking the footprint”.
The vicar at St Peter’s, Revd Anne Hollinghurst will bless the festival at the Finale on 9th October as it opens. Last year the choir from St Peter’s sang the beautiful hymn “We plough the fields and scatter”, right in the heart of the Farmer’s market, so head there early to hear that.
Lunch at the Abbey
The Abbey café is well-known for its delicious seasonal menus, and for the festival this year they are offering an autumnal Abbot’s Table lunch menu including Pilgrim Pie, British beef cooked in Abbots Ale, and Orchard Cobbler made with plums and Bramley apples. A main course costs £7.50, 2 courses £10 and three courses including a glass of wine is £12 which must be the best value in the city. This is available on Wednesday 28th September and Tuesday 4th October.
Many of our local churches are holding harvest festival celebrations in the weeks leading up to the Food & Drink Festival, as well as on the Finale day (see below). St Luke’s are holding a celebration meal on Saturday 1st October, using seasonal, local food. Jo Keeble-Smith told me “We decided our harvest celebration this year would have a ‘green’ theme, focusing on reducing our carbon footprint. One of the main themes is local food: our meal will be meat-free, based on seasonal produce and sourced as locally as possible. We will also have a display of some of our own home-grown and home-made produce, including chutneys, honey and home brew.” It sounds delicious, and I am sure other local groups could use this as inspiration.
Harvest Festival Services
There are services on Sunday 25th September and Sunday 2nd October; pick up a St Albans Food & Drink Festival brochure in the Tourist Office for a full listing.
Sunday 9th October
St Albans Cathedral: 08.30-17.45
St Peter’s Church, St Albans: 9.30
St Michael’s, St Michael’s village, St Albans time tbc
St Helen’s Church, Wheathampstead: 10.00
St Nicholas, Harpenden: 9.30 & 11.30