Taunton Farmers Market are extremely lucky to have several conscientious fruit and veg farmers, whose farming strategies ensure they get as many growing weeks out of their crops as possible in natural and sustainable ways. Cold storage and poly-tunnels can provide both apples and rocket in March, a long time after and before their normal growing seasons. This extension of seasonality enables us to have local nutritious produce practically all year round. Even better, our producers use organic methods, so check out Linscombe Farm or Ray’s Veg this Thursday to see what’s growing right now.
Shopping at a Farmer’s Market keeps you in touch with the natural cycle of the year. You’ll find a completely different range of produce in March to what is available in October. March is a time of year when things reach the end of their season while summer vegetables are only just starting to grow. It’s ironic that, while everything is springing into life in fields and hedgerows, there’s actually very little out there to pick at the moment.
The land is not completely barren, however. Things that are currently in season are cauliflower, kale, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli, salsify, spinach and spring onions. So even in this ‘hungry’ time, there’s still lots of goodness to be had.
A good seasonal fruit (or maybe vegetable?) ready for picking at the moment is rhubarb. This hardy perennial is a fun, easy to grow plant which throws up brightly-coloured stems and lush leaves each spring with practically no input from its gardener. New plants, which are available from Charlton Orchards on the High Street this Thursday, will need a year to establish before picking. Another goodie is bare-root asparagus, a delicious addition for your garden. Charlton Orchards also sell ready-to-plant fruit trees, gooseberry bushes and raspberry canes. Their strawberry plants are also ready, along with a selection of herbs. Pay them a visit and stock up ready for summer.
Those who like to walk on the wild side can find ramsons (wild garlic) in abundance in woods and hedgerows. Try adding minced ramsons to mayonnaise or pesto. Young nettles and dandelions are leaping up a mile a minute as I write, so don’t miss out – the season is short. Soak dandelion leaves overnight to get rid of their bitterness to give you a delicious spring leaf to add to soups, salads and other dishes for free. For those a little wary of picking nettles, wear gloves and use scissors or secateurs to clip off the first two sets of leaves at the top of the stem (older leaves are tougher). Blanch these nettle tops in boiling water to get rid of the stings and use to make pesto, add to soup or stews or steep in hot water for a healthy tea.
So, as you can see, while March may be the ‘hungry’ month, there’s no need to starve.