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Food memories of summer – Stroud Farmers market

September 8, 2010
Stroud Farmers Market

A couple of decades ago I was chosen to be a juror.  The main case involved alcohol, drugs, wild parties and hitting people over the head with a blunt instrument – which all happened in Stroud.  My other experience of this Gloucestershire town is an ugly ring road past a 70’s concrete car park which interrupts an otherwise picture postcard rural Cotswold drive on the A46.  On an overcast Saturday in July, when my Mother suggested I visit the Stroud Farmer’s market, my expectations weren’t high.

Organic carrots

Fresh, organic carrots piled high

As soon as I set eyes on the first stalls piled high with freshly picked organic vegetables,  I was won over.  The collection and variety of food would have excited anyone, let alone an expat as starved of such a range of locally made or freshly grown produce as I am.  I waited impatiently for my Gloucester Old Spot organic sausage in bun and positively dived into the throng.

A bread stall

A great selection of loaves

When my husband arrived in England several weeks later it was one of the first places we went to and he was equally enthusiastic.  There is a comprehensive list of all the producers on the Fresh n Local website; some don’t go every week meaning there is always a different mix.

Marmalade chard

Unusual marmalade chard

I bought some beautiful marmalade chard (which I wilted, dressed with a little olive oil and black pepper and ate pretty much single-handed that evening). We met Jess Vaughan who sold us some milk from her Jess’ Ladies Organic Farm (non-homogonised which means that the flavour changes throughout the year depending on where the cows are in pasture).  Five Valleys fruit cordials made by Chris and Becky were superb and we left with a bottle of lemon and mint – our summer drink.

Cotswold brie

Cotswold brie

On our first visit British cherries were in season, my favourite fruit; on the second plums had just ripened and the red cherry stall transformed into a purple one with about five different varieties of juicy plums, fresh with their powdery bloom.  Cotswold brie was bought from Simon Weaver and taken to Scotland as a gift and the owner of the Selsley chutney stall waited very patiently while we debated which of his many varieties to take home.  Airline weight restrictions meant we had to restrain ourselves to one jar – spiced plum with sloe gin.  Small producers love to talk about their passion and we learned a lot from the South Africans now owning an English orchard and producing Day’s Cottage single variety apple juice. There was a good choice of real bread including the Hobbs House bakery from nearby Nailsworth that is growing in fame (given a boost when it appeared on Mary Queen of Shops).

Pippin doughnuts

Pippin doughnuts - wish I'd tried one but too full from the organic sausages

A great selection of little shops made a backdrop to the market and adjoining lanes including some great delicatessens, Walkers – another local baker, Oeno – an independent wine shop,  Made in Stroud and a quirky fossil shop packed with wonderful ammonites and glowing stones.

Writing this now I’m grinning with the memory of it as widely as my daughter when she ate her fresh Pippin doughnut (who use local flour and eggs and locally grown fruit to make the jammy fillings which change according to the season).

We’re a funny lot us British, we simultaneously embrace the intensive mass-production of things like McDonalds, Oreo cookies, poptarts and whoopie pies as fast as they can be dispatched across the Pond, while supporting  fabulous markets of good, fresh, locally produced, honest food. Let’s hope the latter prevails.

Where are your favourite farmer’s markets? I’d love to hear where you enjoy buying fresh, local food.

  1. Tricia Evans permalink
    September 11, 2010 1:10 pm

    Loved this post Sally…I could literally feel my mouth watering when I read it. I like Stroud too, & have very happy memories from that part of the world – I bought my first house in Tewkesbury, & had friends in Stroud, so often went there.

  2. Nicola permalink
    September 11, 2010 2:16 pm

    Your post is making me feel hungry! Sounds fab.

  3. September 12, 2010 9:43 pm

    This connection with enthusiastic producers (and me – and enthusiastic taster!) is lacking here in Dubai. But there is a growing underground foodie movement in Dubai which is really exciting. Thanks for nice comments Nicola and Tricia.

  4. Karen Reynolds permalink
    September 15, 2010 7:55 pm

    Ah we used to go to that Farmers Market every month (and especially for our Christmas veggies)from Bristol- and we loved Stroud with its organic cafe’s and quirky shops – love reading about your adventures!

    • September 20, 2010 7:25 pm

      Stroud was a complete revalation Karen – I’m a convert.

  5. October 2, 2010 10:42 pm

    gosh, I love markets, especially English ones since they don’t suffer from month long heatwaves, I really must make another visit. Never heard of Marmalade chard before, looks interesting.

    • October 5, 2010 10:57 pm

      So do I Sarah. We braved the rain on one visit but it soon cleared up – better than a heatwave. I had to buy the marmalade chard as I had never seen (or tasted) anything like it.


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