“We operate markets that enable farmers to sell their products to the public so that they get a fair price for their work. Producers all come from within 100 miles of the M25. They must raise, grow or bake everything they sell.”
London Farmers Markets
Set back from the gritty pound-shops of Uxbridge Road, the bounties of West Ealing Farmers’ Market are an unexpected pleasure. Every Saturday morning artisan food producers pile their stalls high with a wonderful array of speciality meats, cheeses, freshly baked sourdoughs, pristine looking seasonal vegetables, fruit and flowers. It’s a streak of colour in the greyest of surroundings, a spectacle that has been drawing a crowd of loyal followers for 10 years.
Market Manager and passionate vegetarian Rosie Pearce has been looking after proceedings since the market launched. “It’s special to have high quality produce like this in such an ordinary place. It’s become an integral part of the community,” she told me.
The regulars arrive on bicycle and on foot, chatting easily with the traders while they cram their baskets and hessian totes with the finest produce. A far cry from the supermarket fodder just yards away.
There are deals to be done – it’s a lot cheaper than farmers markets in more salubrious parts of London, yet it’s the same high-end lovingly produced food and the atmosphere feels far more down to earth and friendly.
My Pick of the crop
1. Grasmere Farm – Traditional Pork and Bacon
Alex was drawing people in from the damp streets cooking sausages, bacon, pork steak and onions on a griddle. Behing the counter there was traditionally cured ham and bacon, at least 15 different kinds of sausage to ruminate over, and huge slabs of pork belly.
Stallholder Mark said: “Cheaper cuts of meat like belly pork have been much more in demand in the past few months” as people tighten their belts but not their waistlines.”
In my basket: Some herby Lincolnshire sausage meat and big bag of bacon bits for under £5.
2. Ravens Den Hand-made pies
Traditional hand-made short-crust topped pies with great names like Fidget and Huntsman, crumble topped sweet pies and pasties – stripped of their Cornish title after the recent European Commission ruling.
In my basket: Crammed with tasty meat and chunky vegetables, the non-Cornish pasties, went down a treat for lunch.
3. Celestial Cakes
Sarah Rees’s cakes and cookies come in alluringly generous slices and are showcased in wanton piles on pretty plates and in vintage tins.
She operates out of the old bakery in Brentford which she’s restored back to it’s original purpose.
In my basket: A couple of fat, cocoa-dusted chocolate brownies.
4. Essex Grown– Fruit growers
Running a stall groaning under the weight of apples and pears, Malcom’s been in the business for 34 years at his rented Orchard in Essex. He proudly told me people queue around the block for his Victoria Plums come September.
In my basket: A kilo of perfect looking Cox apples – the difference in quality from supermarket apples was startling.
5. The Tomato Stall
Beautiful cherry, vine and roasted tomatoes and an array of pickles and sauces from the Arreton Valley on the Isle of Wight.
In my basket: I treated myself to some of their award-winning ketchup (Great Taste 2010 awards) – sweet, punchy and fabulous with my pasty!
6. Alham Wood Cheeses, Organic Buffalo Cheese
Assortment of Buffalo products from Somerset – raw milk, hard and soft cheeses, yoghurts and meat.
I was encouraged to sample all of the cheese from the creamy pillows of mozzarella to the sharper blue-style cheeses.
In my basket: A soft goats-cheese style buffalo cheese
7. Exeter Street Bakery
Impressive selection of artisan breads: fine Pugliese, Ciabatta, Stirato, Integrale and rosemary bread. The flour they use in baking their bread is from Marriage Millers in Essex.
One very dedicated customer could not wait to share his recommendations with me, and for that the baker behind the stall slipped him a free loaf of bread – that’ s got to be better than clubcard points!
In my basket: Walnut and raisin loaf – fabulous with a sharp blue cheese.
West Ealing Farmers’ Market
When: Every Saturday 9am-1pm
Where: Leeland Road, Ealing, London W13 9HH