Well, I’m with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on this one. As much as I enjoy eating any and all meat and fish, Hugh’s new book “River Cottage Veg Every Day” and series on Sunday evenings is a breath of fresh veg.
Too right Hugh – let’s free ourselves from the tyranny of meat every day and EAT MORE VEG every day!
And…I know a very special place which will delight and inspire anyone to do just that – Charlecote Plants and Flowers. A veritable Aladdin’s Cave overflowing with every kind of seasonal home and local produce, but what to choose from this feast for the senses? A huge basket of local fresh free range eggs; trays overflowing with fragrant quinces; with traditional varieties of plums, pears and apples;
with little crimson orbs of earthy beetroot, magenta globes of red cabbage and knobbly celeriac (how can something so unpretty taste so good?). Romanesco cauliflowers, with their little green Christmas-tree clusters beckon me, as do little tubs of glistening ruby and gold tomatoes nestling amongst juicy Heritage beef tomatoes. Sturdy bags of stoneground
organic flour (milled just up the road) stand to attention behind gleaming jars of honey from a local apiary.
It’s relentless. Outside, trestle tables struggle under the weight of every shape and colour and size of squash and pumpkin known to mankind. I spot a wheelbarrow and fight to maintain self-control and dignity.
Breakfast: wobbly poached eggs, sitting like little sun-topped icebergs on crunchy sourdough toast.
Lunch: local Fowler’s cheddar with crisp pears, plum chutney and crumbly home made oatcakes.
Supper: Braised pork chops with Romanesco gratin and apple and celeriac salad…. followed by a little coconut rice pudding served alongside anise-roasted quince (1), or, what about a tender, melting Normandy Apple Tart (2)?
Later: Mmm…a sneaky TV treat? I feel a sugar cone topped with a ruby scoop of beetroot and chocolate ice cream coming on (3).
O.M.G: I could go on. And on….are you hungry yet?
I love going to Charlecote Plants and Flowers. A charmingly rustic semi-open barn, it sits prettily next to the National Trust car park for Charlecote Park. They grow and sell many of their own cottage garden plants and herbs, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and fresh and dried flowers, and what they don’t grow on site is sourced from growers in neighbouring villages. The staff are lovely: chatty, knowledgeable and interested. Shopping here makes you want to eat fruit and veg – lots and lots of it. This is a proper world away from the sterile, uninspiring and expensive supermarket environment we’ve all got trapped into.
Good guys like Nigel Slater and Hugh FW urge us to get creative with fruit and veg and to put it centre stage. Lucky chaps, they have the enviable opportunity, space and nouse to grow their own amazing produce. But thankfully we still have places like Charlecote Plants and Flowers to inspire us!
(1) Nigel Slater: Tender Volume II
(2) Once Upon a Cook: Recipe Page (er….that’s me)
(3) Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall: River Cottage Veg Every Day