On a sunny spring Saturday it was lovely to see White Lion Square in Hatfield town centre coming back to life after the lengthy renovations. The farmers market has been held on the first Saturday of the month for many years now, and it is good to see the square bustling with customers.
If you haven’t been for a while, it is well worth going for excellent locally-produced groceries that are often far better value than in the nearby supermarkets. The rule of the market is that sellers can only sell what they grow or produce themselves, so you will find seasonal, fresh food, that has very low food miles.
I was really impressed by the vegetables on offer from several of the stall holders. Huge bunches of purple sprouting broccoli, kale and rhubarb looked lovely, and were very fresh. You can tell when broccoli is really fresh as the stem snaps easily; try it next time you buy some! I bought an enormous cauliflower for just 90p; for the same price in my local supermarket the cauliflowers were at least a third of the size. Nine Wells Watercress is very well known locally as they have farmed in Whitwell for 200 years. Watercress is not available for sale all year but do buy some if you spot it on the stall; it makes delicious salad and soup.
I was very impressed by the selection on the Morgan Pell Meats trailer, who specialise in home-reared beef and lamb. I chatted to owner Kevin who explained that he had been at the farmers market since it opened in 1999. The meat comes from his wife Judy’s family farm near Bedford; the couple met at agricultural college and their business name includes both their surnames. The beef steaks looked excellent quality, and I was interested to see goat on the stall as well; Kevin explained that the goats are raised by his nephew.
I know Foxholes Farm Shop from their regular stall at St Albans farmers market. They specialise in pork and their chops, bacon and sausages are very good. You can also visit them at the farm shop and butchers in Hertford, where they are open every day. They also have a nice tea shop, ‘Granny Smiths’ where they use many of their own hams and eggs.
Franklins of Thorncote had an excellent selection of meats and eggs, and are well-known for their farm shop near Sandy. Their chickens are free-range, and you can also get Gloucester Old Spot pork, which is a favourite with chefs and not easy to find in supermarkets.
Local honey is always worth buying when you can find it. It is meant to be very good for alleviating hay fever, and can vary in flavour depending on what the bees are collecting! The Hertfordshire Honey Stall offers very good quality honey, and well worth investing in a pot.
Lime Tree Pantry Pies were selling fruit and savoury pies, and they are very popular at the St Albans and Harpenden farmers markets too. Pick up one of these, with some vegetables from the stall next door, and Saturday evening dinner is all sorted! The beef and ale pies are one of the bestsellers, but you can also buy salmon pies and vegetable pies. Sizes vary and can feed one person or up to six.
There are not as many stalls as there have been in the past, but with the warmer weather ahead of us, and the work completed, this should change. It would be good to see a bread stall and a good coffee maker; if you are interested in having a stall here ring the market manager Alan on 07704 404660. With plenty of free parking nearby this is a very easy market to get to, and well worth putting in your diary for the next one on Saturday 6th May (8.30-1).