Farmers markets were established in the UK in 1999 to try to reach more discerning consumers directly. There are now several markets running in Essex. Browse among tables groaning with cheese, game, fruit, local meats, breads, every kind of berry juice as well as plants, arts and crafts and other goods. It is a great place to take children to get them interested in real food. But get there early as many stalls are sold out within the first couple of hours.
For centuries Essex has harvested fish and shellfish from its 350 mile coastline, fattened cattle and sheep on its marshlands, worked the fertile lands of the interior and hunted game through its forests. Through the historical towns of the county the local produce is celebrated with seasonal festivals and welcoming farmers' markets, where farmers, growers or producers sell their high quality products.
If meat is not your most desired dish, the river estuaries provide also a unique produce. Maldon Oysters and the famous Maldon Sea Salt from the tidal waters are of the highest quality. The variety of fish and smoked items is remarkable and the possibilities are endless. But whatever your preference, always a good wine to wash down all this tasty fresh food. You'll find wine making experts making the most of the excellent climate with the exceptional vineyards all around the county. And in any pretty village (and there are many in Essex), there is always a good opportunity for the sweet touch. All around Essex gingham and pine go with cakes and tea. But the ubiquitous Victoria sponge has been nudged aside by more creative patisserie. Across the county there are cakes, puddings, biscuits, buns, jams and preserves on sale at markets and farm stores. Essex is still one of the few places in the world where the ‘Little Scarlet' strawberry is grown, the perfect variant for jam-making!
The options are tentative and numerous. Locals have always consumed beef, pork, lamb, mutton, venison, poultry, game and wildfowl with gusto. And where there is meat there is dairy produce: milk, buttermilk, cream, cheese and more recently, yoghurt and ice cream. The Doomsday book records cheese-making from ewes milk on the coast around Canvey. Immigrants into East London and Essex have bought the best of their culinary expertise with them. Italians found huge local appreciation of their ice cream and the trade thrived at the seaside pavilions and piers. The Rossi family of Southend has been at Marine Parade for 100 years. Amato's Penny Licks, scoops of iced cream sold in re-useable glass dishes, were once the hallmark of Southend's Golden Mile.
For details of farmers markets throughout the county please click here or visit www.farmersmarkets.net or www.essexfarmersmarkets.co.uk