Stroud Farmers' Market has been collecting accolades Katamari
style for some time now. I'd heard about it a while back on the rather excellent Food Programme
, on Radio 4, and have been meaning to visit ever since. As with most things on your doorstep, well, perhaps not quite your doorstep but still pretty close, it has taken me a while to get there.
Set below the Cotswold Hills, where the Five Valleys meet; Stroud is an old market and cloth town, close to the bucolic idyll of Cider with Rosie
. As you enter, you can see the mark of the industrial revolution: the network of waterways; old woollen mills and red brick warehouses dotting the way.
In Cornhill market place, every Saturday between 9am and 2pm, is the farmers' market
. Spilling over into the surrounding streets, with a flea market running in parallel on nearby Threadneedle Street, it is vibrant and bustling. There are a wide range of stalls from which you could easily do your weekly food shop and, take home some ornamental plants and bedding to freshen up your window boxes or borders, if you're blessed with a garden, to boot.
I managed to cart off two bags worth of goodies and wanted to mention a few of the producers that made my meals a real treat: Overton Organic Eggs; Jess's Ladies Organic Milk
; Coleshill Organic Vegetables
; The Garlic Farm
and Besley's Fruits.
Wild garlic or ramsons, are rife at the moment. I'd like to tell you I regularly go out amongst the bluebells in some ancient woodland foraging for the stuff, but I don't. I'm not sure I'd have the confidence in my ability to identify wild ingredients, even if they do have the strong smell of allium. Luckily, Coleshill Organic was selling wild garlic by the bunch. Shredding them into ribbons, I used some to make a rather tasty omelette with Overton eggs and a sprinkling of Parmesan and black pepper.
For dinner, I used the rest of the wild garlic to pep up some mashed potato. A bit over zealous with the Jess's Ladies Milk -which had a very different taste to the homogenised supermarket stuff, it was a little sloppy. Mixing in some grated Parmesan and mustard powder, it tasted delicious nonetheless. We ate this with flakes of smoked haddock poached in milk, and some wilted, buttered, silver chard, once again from Coleshill.
From The Garlic Farm, I bought a bundle of new season asparagus. It made for a lovely lunch; steamed and dipped into foaming hollandaise - a Delia recipe, made with the remaining eggs.
One of my biggest food disappointments is biting into a ripe looking strawberry, only to find it crunchy and insipid. Besley's strawberries, fittingly Stroudwater Scarlet
and fragrant, did not disappoint. Some were a little tart, but nothing a dash of sugar couldn't sort out. Topped with a spoonful of deliciously thick, Jess's Ladies double cream, it was the very taste of summer.
Cheese was also part of my haul, but perhaps I should leave that for another day...
I can certainly understand why Stroud Famers' Market has its plaudits and would happily visit again. Lucky for us, many of the producers sell in Bristol on a Wednesday or a Friday
. Although not quite so handy if you work during the week, and can't peel off during your lunch break!