Talking Point

Farmers' Markets - A Buyers Guide

Do you dread that weekly trip to the supermarket? For a veggie, shopping at a supermarket can be a draining experience: wrestling a wayward trolley round the vegetables; traipsing up and down the aisles looking for the occasional veggie item amongst shelves of animal produce; long, tedious queues at the checkout, and; dissatisfaction at supporting a retailer that relies for a large part of its business on animal exploitation.

Shopping need not be like this!

Why not take a trip to your local market instead? Food shopping at markets can be fun, cheaper, give you access to a wider range of products, and enable you to support smaller firms that only deal in vegetarian products.

Farmers’ Markets around the country are a great way to buy fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables, direct from the growers. Food from these markets can be fresher than from a supermarket, where produce will have travelled from the grower to distribution warehouses, out to the stores, onto the shelves and, eventually, into your basket. This means market-bought produce can last longer and taste better.

At a Farmers’ Market you know you are dealing direct with the producer, so, you can question them face-to-face about their produce and production methods. To find out where your nearest Farmers’ Market is, call the UK National Association of Farmers’ Markets (+44 (0)1225 787914), or visit their website at

Markets can also provide a wide range of products not available in your local supermarket. A great example is Borough Market, next to Southwark Cathedral, in London. Stands specialising in produce from around the world are found alongside the best fruit, vegetables, cheese and chutneys from the UK. Given the combination of a traditional high quality fruit and vegetable market, with gourmet fine food stands, it is no surprise that celebrity chefs frequent this food lovers’ paradise.

Through the main entrance to the market, from Borough High Street, you can find fruit and vegetable stands such as Baxters’, with beautifully displayed fresh produce. Wander round to Booths’ to find yourself knee-deep in fresh mushrooms, and confronted by a huge array of unusual items, such as Feijoa fruit from Colombia. One of the best things about exploring a market is discovering something new. So, even if you have never heard of something before, one of the friendly traders, like Terry, will be happy to advise you on how to use them.

As you head deeper into the market you may stumble across Southern Alps, who offer a range of innovative, healthy and preservative-free muesli. Then, pass under the railway arches into the Green Market and follow your nose to the Garlic Farm! Here you can find colossal elephant garlic with a mild flavour, or rope-like plaits of smoked garlic to scent your kitchen.

Whether you love or hate the taste and texture of ordinary tofu you should visit the Clean Bean stand to see how it should be done! The fresh tofu is made with nigari, unlike mass produced tofu, and you can taste the difference. It has a remarkable clean flavour that could be complemented by the organic herbs and spices you can find elsewhere in the market. The exotic Five Spice tofu and delicate Smoky tofu have a firmer texture and are great for cooking. A unique offering is the juicy Sesame and Ginger tofu, perfect for salads, or wraps.

There is an abundance of high quality cheeses to be found at the market too. The Bourne family, for example, offer a range of tasty vegetarian cheeses from their Cheshire farm. At their stand you may sample the subtlety of the oak-smoked Cheshire, or the slightly sharper flavour of the rich mature Cheshire.

Do you enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean? Then, a visit to the Olive Garden is essential! Once you manage to work your way to the front of the crowds you will see what the hold-up was, as you join with others to gawk at the array of tapas in front of you. As well as barrels of olives marinated in wonderful flavour combinations, such as, “parsley, tarragon, garlic and lemon”, you will find sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, grilled aubergines in garlic and herbs, tapanade and stuffed vine leaves.

The helpful guys at Cranberry will invite you to try their enormous range of dried fruit and nuts. Many are organic and all are delicious and, of course, very good for you! They are full of energy and essential minerals. A bag of mixed raw nuts and berries, in the bottom drawer of your desk, is the perfect antidote to mid-afternoon lethargy at work.
If, after munching your way through all the free samples on offer, you are still hungry, there are plenty of options for lunch.

If you have a yearning to head down Mexico-way, check out the Cool Chilli Co. who offer a vegetarian black bean chilli and real corn tortillas. For something a little lighter, Artisan Foods have a dazzling array of sweet and savoury breads and pastries, including “roast vegetable and spinach stromboli”, or “potato, mushroom and sage focaccia”.

Total Organics have a salad bar at the front of their stand and, also, offer hot dishes of the day. If you want something really hot, the Creole caterers Yam the Cassava serve their spicy vegetable cakes with chilli sauce. They also have a selection of exotic sweet cakes, such as, ginger and fig, or, carrot and cassava, which are suitable for vegans. Be warned – these delicious, unusual cakes sell quickly, so, get there early!

At the next stand you can watch fresh smoothies being made, with mouth-watering flavour combinations such as “blackberry, orange, apple, and blackcurrant”, and “mango, pineapple, orange and passion fruit”.

Before you head home, stop off at the Pudding Company and summon up the willpower to choose which one of their traditional English puddings you will take home for the weekend. The sago pudding has a full texture that is cut through by the zesty orange topping. The rich rice pudding is wonderfully creamy. The small pots of intense chocolate pudding are a favourite. All are vegetarian. Oh, leave willpower till tomorrow – take the lot!


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These pages were last updated 22nd May 2010
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