Column: Waking up to a summer of food treats

Food and drink Apr 25

Food and drink Apr 25 - Credit: Archant

We seem to be emerging from a grim, cold winter: the plants are waking up, the sun is breaking through, and the towns and villages are coming out of hibernation.

It is a lovely time of year locally, with plenty of outdoor festivals, farmer’s markets and events to enjoy. Here is my round-up of some of the foodie highlights – I hope the weather gives us the opportunity for lots of picnics, barbecues and enjoying what we have to offer locally.

Open Food Gardens

Last week Transition St Albans launched the program for this year’s Open Food Gardens at The Courtyard Café, St Albans.

This lovely annual event is an opportunity to visit local gardens and meet like-minded gardeners and find out more about growing your own fruit and vegetables. Transition are an active local group, keen to share ideas on how we can all save money, and reduce our carbon footprints.

Whatever the size of your garden (or lack of) there are plenty of things you can grow. The garden at the front of The Courtyard Café in Hatfield Road is a terrific example. In a fairly small patch, Michael, with the help of the Transition team, has grown an impressive selection of vegetables and herbs, which he uses in his cooking for the café. You can sit outside the café and enjoy looking at the garden – and eat some of it too.

To visit the gardens, simple turn up (no booking needed). There is a suggested donation of £2 for over 16s, and they do ask for no dogs except guide dogs, and there is restricted wheelchair access in all gardens.

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n Sunday, June 9, 2-5pm, 104 Marshalswick Lane, AL1 4XE

n Sunday, August, 2-4pm, 21 Sherwood Avenue, AL4 9QJ

n Sunday, September 8, 2-4, 24 Oaklands Lane, AL4 0HR

Transition St Albans also plan to run Grow your own Skills sessions this year, lead by two very experienced gardeners, Heather and June. I visited June’s garden last year and it is fabulous – June uses ingenious ways to fill her garden with fruit and vegetables, and uses sustainable gardening skills, such as using recycled materials and water recycling.

The sessions will run on Saturdays from April 20 through to September 28, and you can learn as you follow the gardening year, from sowing seeds and pricking out seedlings, through harvesting to making your own compost. For more details visit

Farmers’ Markets

It was a beautiful sunny morning at the St Albans Farmers’ Market this month, and the stalls were doing a brisk trade. I bought delicious rhubarb from the Earthworks stalls (far cheaper than supermarket prices), delicious seeded bread from Redbournbury Mill, which stayed fresh all week (without preservatives).

A friend raved about the joint of beef she chose from Foxholes – really excellent quality, with enough leftovers to make a chilli during the week.

I often get asked when they are on, and here is my annual reminder! There is also a new website about the St Albans market, which plans to include more information about stalls

n St Albans – Second Sunday each month (8am-2pm);

n Wheathampstead – Third Sunday each month (10am-1pm);

n Harpenden – Fourth Sunday each month (10am-2pm).

Kimpton Mat Festival

May 4 and 5 for this very popular village festival. Look out for the delicious afternoon teas served outside on the recreation ground in the afternoons and the pubs do excellent barbecue food.

There is a running race to burn it all off, and a fab art show in the church which is always worth a look. The theme this year is “Toy Box” and I imagine the carnival and floats will have fun with that theme!

Foxholes Farm and Shop Open Day

Have you been over to Foxholes in Hertford yet? A little out of our area, but it is such a regular at the farmer’s markets, that I think readers would be interested.

It is a lovely trip, especially if you have young children as you can visit the lambs, piglets, calves and chicks. The next open weekend is May 18-19.

You can also buy excellent food including their own beef and pork, barbecue marinaded meats (let’s be optimistic), fresh fish, and baked goods and bread made by Simmons at the farm shop, which is open every day – see

Hertfordshire County Show

This popular event is coming up soon – May 25-26. It is a fantastic weekend, with plenty of entertainment, from wild west shows to a basset hound parade.

It’s very interesting to see the animal competitions, even if you haven’t a clue about the different breeds, and you can spot the local farmers who sell at the farmers markets.

There are also llamas, chickens, and lots of opportunities to find out how to rear these animals. You can also see vintage cars and farm machinery, traditional countryside skills such as weaving and spinning, and there are marquees full of local produce and food to buy.

Welwyn Garden City World Food Festival

On Saturday, May 18, there will be a street market in Welwyn Garden City town centre with food stalls representing food from around the world, along with music, dance and entertainers. It’s only 10 minutes’ drive from St Albans and could be well worth a visit.

For more local food news and past articles visit