Markets: When? And Where?

Welcome to North East England Farmers Markets
In Season and On Sale: July-August-September 2016

Celebrating the wealth of the fields and the hedgerows...    by Kathryn Potts

We have skilled and committed farmers offering us some of the best fresh meat in the country at Farmers' Markets in NE England and which usually can’t be bought elsewhere. The pastures and hay meadows are full of scent and colour with wild grasses and flowers and ready for cutting in mid-July. Meat from field beef, hill lamb and free range poultry and pigs tastes better when they are able to eat grass and a range of wild herbs. Green Brae (Alnwick FM), and other lowland lamb producers, will have Texel lamb on sale in July with sweet, tender hill blackface lamb not ready until August. The owner Carolyn Graham told me that at their farm in Harbottle they organically grow grains, peas, beans and grass to feed their animals over winter. Buying direct from producers at Farmers Markets means you can ask what their animals are fed on to help you make your choices.

We too can enjoy the taste of wild flowers and fruits. The Skinningrove Country Wine Company (Saltburn Farmers’ Market) is a small-scale business based in the old ironstone-mining village of Skinningrove on the North Yorkshire coast. All the wines are hand made using recipes based on traditional methods and are fermented using organic sugars and honeys. Most ingredients are organic; own grown, sourced locally from allotments and organic farms, or gathered from the wild. Some of the more unusual wines, such as gorse and silver birch, are made in smaller quantities and are not always so readily available. The wines they produce include Nettle, Dandelion, Gorse, Oak Leaf, Raspberry, Silver Birch, Sweet Woodruff, Gooseberry and Elderflower, Raspberry and Rose Petal, Clover, Borage, and Hawthorn Blossom.

This is also the season when Helen Farr of Sloecraft (Alnwick FM) makes her Raspberry vodka as well as a new Elderflower gin. William Ramsbotton of Just William preserves (Barnard Castle FM) will be out and about too gathering wild fruits from woodland, fields and hedgerows for his wild gooseberry jam, wild crab apple jelly, damson cheese and orchard chutney.

For arable farmers the cool weather this spring means that wheat and barley crops are well behind this year but you can still get a real taste of your surrounding countryside and coast when you buy local honey, milk, cheeses, fish and really free range eggs.

At Farmers’ Markets you will usually find bread, preserves, meats, cakes and biscuits with the new root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, beetroot – soft fruits and salad ingredients are now coming into season but a little later than last year.

This is the time of year when local produce is at its best in NE England - and is celebrated at Food Festivals.

For a great day out on Sunday 31st July go to Saltburn Food Festival Street Market with over 80 stalls, special guest chefs, live cookery theatre, family kitchen, world street food, veggie & vegan specials, outdoor dining & picnic areas, street theatre, vintage bus & lots more.

Now in its 9th Year the Berwick Food and Beer Festival this year is on 3-4th September and there will be over 40 stalls of local produce and local ales plus cookery demonstrations, information, an animal farm, foodie films, and live music. Youngsters are not left out either with activities such as cake decorating and pizza making. You can buy local produce and eat local street food, listen to great music, drink local beers, or just be entertained.

And later on, there’s Alnwick Food Festival is on 17-18th September and Morpeth Food & Drink Festival on Saturday 1st October

In Season & On-Sale: April, May, June 2016

Kathryn Potts writes: Each year the weather is different – and the very wet but quite warm, windy winter we've just had has resulted in many fallen trees having to be cleared and waterlogged land affecting arable cultivation and stock grazing. Sowing spring crops and turning cattle out on to the fields will depend on some drier weather coming but a milder climate will favour the shepherds lambing in March and April.

Martin from Westholm Farm in Durham has been coming to Farmers Markets for a long time now and his range of meats is great value and always popular. He is about to start lambing and he says that the lack of snow this winter has made life easier for him and has been good for the cattle.

Northumberland Poultry's birds range free in fields on the Rothbury hills. They will have some pekin ducks (that's a breed of duck - really! Not a Chinese dried fish dish!) for a special Easter meal as well as chickens or guinea fowl. Their home-made chicken liver pate is delicious and stock made from the double packs of chicken carcasses on sale is a good addition to any soup.

At Ravenswood Grange Farm, they’ve acquired a new boar called Lincoln – he comes with a reputation for being a gentle pig which grazes rather than roots. They got him in exchange for their middle white boar which came from a bloodline developed in the 19th century in Yorkshire called the London Porkers, because the pork was sent to London every week. You can enjoy their quality, succulent pork confident that the pigs have not been fed any GM feeds or given routine antibiotics or growth promoters.

With lambing starting at the end of March, Easter may be too early for the pet lambs which are usually a special attraction at the Moorhouse Farm shop – they will definitely be there from about mid April.

Caroline Ridley reports that 80% of the wild rabbit population was wiped out by flooding in the Tyne Valley whilst pigeons have grown fat on the un-harvested pea fields. The wild rabbit, bacon and black pudding pie won a Taste award last year and this year Ridley’s Game will be entering their gluten-free wild venison burger with fresh basil. Venison is available all year round and has almost no visible fat. Haunch and loin cuts can be served as steaks with redcurrant jelly or casseroled with mushrooms. They also have wild venison and their ‘row rack’ cut is in the top 50 Taste list. Game birds, such as pheasant, partridge, mallard and pigeon can bring attractive variety to a menu accompanied by winter vegetables such as leeks, parsnips, beetroot, swede, cabbage and kale.

English asparagus traditionally is in season about 6 weeks from May to up to the end of June (but growers may use poly tunnels to extend it). Locally grown asparagus with sea trout caught off the Northumberland coast and new potatoes ... delicious!

Rhubarb has such a special taste and for a simple spring pudding nothing can beat gently stewed rhubarb, served with an egg custard.

Herbs are at their best in the spring and early summer and thyme is one of the most versatile from being a herbal antibacterial to a vital ingredient in stuffing for poultry, and Garth Cottage Herbs have six varieties for you to choose from.

You can enjoy delicious artisan wholemeal cobs and spelt bread from the Great North Bread Company which uses grain grown locally in north Northumberland and milled at Heatherslaw. A slice of this crusty bread and some Northumberland cheeses cellar matured over at least 3 months - such as Coquetdale, Reiver, Chevington and Brinkburn - with a chutney from JR Jams make a great Ploughman’s lunch.

Farmers’ Markets’ produce offers you food which reflects both the weather and the countryside in which it is produced and it changes at different seasons. Just to give an example of how small scale food production gives a product that is not exactly the same all the time - Northumberland cheese had a delicious Blagdon Blue on sale at Newcastle Farmers’ Market in March which had hardly any blue in it, but was going down a storm with customers.

Winter in the North East

What's seasonal at farmers' markets in January, February & March?

Eating what is in season gives you a variety of different tastes, textures and colours throughout the year. In winter, in the North East, we have

Fruit and vegetables

Root vegetables - swede, parsnips, beetroot and carrots

Greens – curly kale, broccoli, sprouts, calabrese, cabbages of all kinds – red, January Kings, Savoys and Spring

Onions – red and white and leeks

Apples – stored and for eating or cooking

Here are some quick and easy ideas to add a bit of variety when you serve up locally grown winter vegetables.


Peel and cook some floury potatoes, drain, mash, mix with some cream and salt and black pepper. Add in some finely shredded and lightly cooked cabbage (or kale). The Colcannon can be eaten like this or it can be fried on both sides in butter or bacon fat (in which a sliced onion has been fried until it is soft and beginning to brown) like a thick pancake until the outside is crusty-crisp and brown.


Simply potatoes peeled, boiled and mashed with salt and black pepper and with chopped spring onion (or chives or parsley or nettle tops instead of the spring onions) folded in. Serve in a pile on the plate with a well in the centre into which put a good knob of butter.

Brussels sprouts

All brassicas go well with bacon, but sliced brussels sprouts stir-fried with smoked bacon lardons and a little bit of sage can be particularly delicious.


Lambing starts in February in the low level farms and runs through to April in the hill farms. This year’s lamb won’t be available till September, but last season’s Northumbrian Hill lamb is available until March. Mutton (over two years old) or hogget (over a year old) makes a tasty meal in a slow cooked casserole.

Game – pheasant, pigeon, partridge and venison - roasted, casseroled or in pies, makes a real savoury seasonal meal – though the game seasons end towards the end of this quarter. There is also a delicious selection of charcuterie products now available – you only need a small amount of tasty cured meats or chorizo to add flavour to salads, pasta or a baked potato.


Flat fish, scallops, monkfish are plentiful. Haddock is in season usually until the end of January. And look out for some more unusual fish being landed at Amble and elsewhere along the coast.

Baked goods & conserves

Look out for an amazing selection of locally baked breads – with seeds, grains, herbs, honey, spices, currants and just plain - so you can enjoy the flavour of a twice fermented dough which has enabled the flavour of high quality grains to develop fully.


Look out for tender wild garlic, sorrel and nettle tips as Spring starts and use them to ask fresh wild flavours to your winter fare. In the garden herbs such as sage and rosemary complement the strong savoury tastes of game and pork, and perhaps serve with redcurrant jelly.


In Season & On Sale: July-September 2015

Kathryn Potts writes:

At Farmers’ Markets in North East England you will always find a fine selection of fresh meat – chicken, beef, pork, lamb, mutton and venison.

In July and August there will be sweet, tender hill lamb – delicious with new potatoes and mint - and by September grouse, pheasant and other tasty game will be in season. Organic poultry is available at Morpeth, Newcastle and Hexham Farmers' Markets.

At Middlemay Farm they have just finished shearing  and are unexpectedly looking forward to some late lambs in mid June.  Carron Craighead explained that those Clun Forrest eves that were not pregnant in January were just left in the field with the Shropshire tups (rams) So - there'll be some spring Middlemay lamb available at Christmas! Carron sells lamb and mutton as fresh cuts and also as 'right tasty' ready meals – Lamb Bobotie, Tagine, Moussaka, Navarin and a la Greque and Mutton Clun Stew. (Newcastle and Hexham Farmers' Markets).

Tracey of Broom Mill Farm and Martin of Westholm Farm Meats are at many of the Farmers' Markets in the south of the region as well as Newcastle.

NE England Farmers’ markets also usually have bread, preserves, ales, cakes and biscuits. One of the aims of a Farmers’ Market is that these should include as much locally grown vegetables, fruits or locally reared meats from known sources as is possible - with a minimum of 25% for most processed foods and a 10% minimum for baked goods. So you will find North Shore Patisserie using local grown rhubarb with (non-local) stem ginger as the filling in their round puff pastry pies (called a pithivers). (Newcastle, Alnwick  and Hexham Farmers' Markets). Northumbria Preserves (Hexham, Gibside and Kelso Farmers' Markets) use fruit and vegetables from their own allotment and have made their home- or neighbour- (in exchange for some tomato plants!) grown rhubarb into jam and chutney.

The new root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, beetroot – will come into season and then salad ingredients, a little later than last year. Organic vegetables are available from Bluebell (Hexham, Barnard Castle, Stokesley Farmers' Markets).

cluster if hand raised pies

Teesdale Blue and White Hilton – creamy smooth and full flavoured – are on offer

Cheese wedding cakes are very popular these days and they are a speciality of Northumbrian Cheese Co – the top round is usually Blagdon Blue - a creamy, cellar ripened cow’s milk cheese streaked with blue veins.from Leaside Cheesemakers in the Teesdale valley. And just try topping some strawberries with a big spoonful of their ginger or lemon curd cheese for a delicious combination of flavour and textures!  (Barnard Castle and Hexham Farmers' Markets).

The Prince of Pies has developed a special recipe, including black pudding (to symbolise the blood spilled!!), for Hexham Riot Pie, but it's difficult to choose from the range of freshly baked tasty pies using local meats enclosed in a crisp pastry.  (Greenhead, Gibside and Hexham Farmers' Markets).

A selection of charcuterieSome tasty high quality charcuterie is now on offer such as Fennel Salami and Smoked Pork Sausage with Mustard seed and Smoked Paprika from Westnewton Charcuterie (Hexham Farmers’ Market).

Birdoswald Cheese, as well as the most delicious natural yoghurt, can be found on the Slack House Farm stall at Hexham Farmers' Market.  They have just taken the first clip silage and are still waiting for the newly sown ley to be ready for silage, this is late because of the cold weather and although it included some wheat seed the jackdaws, crows and pigeons dug them up and enjoyed a feast as soon as it germinated! Diane is celebrating the recent birth of two sets of twin calves on the farm which overlooks Hadrian's Wall on the Cumbria and Northumberland border.

Overall this is the time of year when local produce is at its best in NE England and will be celebrated at food festivals all over the region between now (July) and early October. Watch out for the details of these events!


In Season & On Sale: October-December 2015

Kathryn Potts writes:

At the end of September we can see pale gold fields of cut cereals after harvest and already ploughed and planted fields - some showing green already - to remind us of the agricultural cycle and the impact farming has on our country landscapes. Trends in recent years have generally been for the number of farm units to decrease and for larger farms to increase in size and in intensity of production. Now we can only be sure that any milk we drink comes from cows which have been fed outside on grass pastures if we get deliveries from a local dairy farmer we know or by buying organic milk. Acorn organic milk from Darlington is widely distributed in the North East through local doorstep deliveries and in Morrisons. By being aware of seasonality and provenance and choosing local produce we can help reduce food miles and support the local economy which will enable us, and future generations, to continue to enjoy seeing for example cows grazing in pastures.

Pork cuts like shoulder of pork are good value and with some bacon, leeks, wholegrain mustard, cider and apples make a tasty Autumn casserole. Grouse, pheasant and venison make a flavoursome change in the Autumn menu. The hill bred lamb from the Cheviots and Pennines is at its best, tender and tasty and great value.

Sprout stalks will soon be appearing again. Roots - potatoes, turnips, beetroots, carrots, parsnips, leeks and celeriac – and greens – Savoy, sweetheart and round cabbages, kale and broccoli. Cabbage and mashed potatoes with lambs’ liver, bacon and fried onions is one of my favourite meals in winter time.

On cold days there is nothing like a hot ginger pudding to warm you up and the ready made puddings on sale at many Farmers' Markets are so good.

This year’s heather honey is now coming on to the market – just  close your eyes and sniff it and you are transported to the purple moors.

Morpeth Food Festival is on Saturday 3rd October.

To find producers of locally reared geese, turkey, duck, guinea fowl or chicken for Christmas - look out for our listing on here from mid November. You can find crafts and some different, tasty edible Christmas presents at Farmers’ Markets in December - and do check the dates of the December markets carefully!

April - June 2015: In Season & On Sale

Kathryn Potts writes:

If the post Easter warmth continues, we will see good growth of arable crops, rich pastures for the animals and hopefully fine weather for fishing. In May delicate asparagus tips appear and by June pink sea trout with creamy new potatoes. Enjoying these fresh distinctive flavours and colours for just a few weeks each year is what eating local produce in season is about.

There are a small number of local vegetable growers who attend farmers markets and green is theBoxes of spring veg inncluding asparagus predominant colour of our spring vegetables – spring cabbages, late broccoli and spinach. Asparagus traditionally is in season about 6 weeks from May to up to the end of June (but growers may use poly tunnels to extend it). Some early lettuces may also be found later in the season along with any early strawberries.

Crabs, lobsters and langoustines are caught by local boats on the North East coast.  There are two white fish that can be caught just off the coast - pollock and coley. Ask for Pollock - a firm, white fish and has a taste and texture similar to cod – to encourage its sale (rather than being used to bait crab pots). Amble Development Trust are currently market researching a 'fish box' scheme to support the local fisheries and promote the consumption of a wider range of fish.

To maintain environmentally sustainable grazing levels some farmers are rearing traditional cattle breeds such as Dexter, Belted Galloway and Shorthorns as well as Aberdeen Angus and Herefords. When sourcing beef from a known farm there is a limited amount of prime cuts so try some chuck and shin; which have a rich flavour when casseroled or in a pie, especially when cooked with local ale to make a steak and kidney pudding or beef carbonade.

Two hens scratching in the dust

Hens respond to the lighter days by increasing egg production so between mid March and mid October they are plentiful. If you buy eggs at a Farmers’ Market you can ask about the type of hens and how they are kept.

This season there is usually a profusion of herbs. Fresh shoots of parsley, oregano and tarragon add delicate flavours to many dishes and are especially good with eggs, chicken and fish. Dill goes well with the sea trout.

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