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The whole London Farmers Market thing has pretty much passed me by. Before I moved to America I remember there being one by Camden Passage in Islington at weekends, but I had no idea that there was now such a proliferation in London.  (I’ve always meant to try the Swiss Cottage one on Weds, but it’s in the middle of the working day.) And I do like a good Farmers Market. The American ones, from whence the idea came, that I have shopped from have always been splendid. Mostly very good value, packed with fresh produce and cheery shoppers

Santa Monica’s is wonderful, the one outside San Francisco’s Ferry Market superlative, & even the little one in Red Bank, New Jersey that I went to with the boys was excellent – NJ produce is some of the best in America. The Union Square Greenmarket in New York is also good but not cheap – unsurprising given its location.

So when I saw a sign for the Parliament Hill one, which is tucked away in a school playground just off the lower reaches of Hampstead Heath, I was so there. I tied up the dog with my sister by the dog creche, and went to forage. The fruit and veg was exceptionally good value, and I bought bags of small, sweet Coxes and wished I had room to carry more. Especially when I saw the wonderful fresh free range eggs.

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But ouch quite a lot of what was on offer at the other stalls was very not cheap.  Although I do think we generally expect to pay too little for our food, thanks to the expectations nurtured by the big supermarkets and their price gouging ways with farmers & suppliers, when I can buy good organic  bread, cake and pre-prepared food cheaper from local independent stores, who have overheads built into their prices, I did feel slightly cagey about buying those items from the stalls there. It felt a little bit like a smug middle class shopper’s tax.

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I was not best pleased at asking for a small box of squash salad and then being charged £6.50 for it. And it was not at all nice. AT ALL. (Claggy grains, no seasoning, unpeeled squash) *chucks in bin*. I guess that’s the punt you make. On the other hand lil’sis’ brownie whilst also very not cheap was also very good.

So I will be back as often as possible to buy fruit and vegetables and eggs there, and I hear that the meat & fish stalls are exceptional, but will be steering clear of buying my lunch, or cake there.

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“Parliament Hill opened in September 2008. Look out for fresh dairy produce from Alham Wood & the outstanding display of produce from three of Lincolnshire’s top vegetable growers – Eden Farms, Manor Farm and Ted’s Veg. You’ll also find fresh fish from Dorset coast, and meat and poultry from 12 Green Acres, Old Hall farm, Fosse Meadows plus game in season from Radwinter and South Downs.”

Every Saturday 10am-2pm. William Ellis School, off Highgate Road. London. NW5 1RN. Website

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15 comments

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I love a good farmer’s market and a good Cox’s apple; they are my favourite ‘common’ apple although I do love trying new varieties that are of a similar kin to a Cox.
I do agree that some farmer’s markets have inflated ‘because we are fashionable/on trend’ prices but it is a great joy to come across ones that are just 100% honest; I love the market in Stamford, Lincs as it is reasonably priced and good quality produce plus you get to know more about local producers in your area.
Thank you for a super post, Sasha; it raises some interesting points.

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@Hannah Chan: Yup – it’s a difficult one…It’s clear we undervalue the price of food in this country, but there is a limit…LLGxx

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Farmers’ Markets are great. I used to go to the low key one in Angel. Cakes affordable too.

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They look so yummy 🙂

http://haideeandco.blogspot.com/

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This is my local farmer’s market and I can vouch for the Giggly Pig sausages (3 packs for a tenner isn’t much more than Sainsburys) but I agree on the outrageous overpricing. When a hunk of cheese I could eat in 5 mins is £5+, I do wonder about the profit margin. I haven’t bought fish there yet but the scallops at a quid each are seriously tempting!

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@George: Thank you for the sausage recommendation! LLGxx

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I go to a lot of farmers markets in the SE and SW London areas. Apparently the producers can/will charge more depending on the area, so I would think that in the NW3/NW5 areas they will mark up a lot. A vegetable supplier at Brixton Sunday Market confirmed that she charged more at the Balham Saturday Market. I go to Blackheath, Brixton and Peckham on a regular basis. If you want to cross the river, the Brixton one is worth a visit on a Sunday. You can make a trip to the indoor shops and cafes of Brixton Village at the same time. They are all undercover so v. good if raining.

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@Catherine: South of the river?! Okay, maybe I’ll make the trip! Thank you for the inspiration. LLGxx

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Come down to SE1 to Malby Street, the Borough Market for those who can’t stand the crowds at Borough Market any more.

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Come down to SE1 to Maltby with a T……

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@lulu: oooh good recommendation! Thank you! LLGxx

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I am the girl who sold you the box of millet, butternut squash, Butterbeans, chilli and fennel fronds with coriander – I am assuming from the photo that your visit was in December? I am really upset that you had to throw your salad away, next time please come and see me, if you can’t eat something it is totally in your right to return it. As for ripping you off for 6 pounds, it’s an interesting point. Before I started trading I was quite surprised about costs but as I see from working next to the farmers, no one is laughing all the way to the bank. A bowl of butternut squash salad with locally sourced veg, good quality olive oil, maldon seal salt, spices, bags of fresh herbs and organic pulses will cost perhaps 40 pounds to make and only fill 10 boxes at 6 pounds. Afterwards if all those good quality ingredients (and hard labour) go on to make such a poor effect on the customer then that really makes me quite upset. Come and talk to me next time!

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Hello I am still surprised to see that you didn’t publish my last comment. Surely I have a right to reply! I would like you to amend certain innacuracies, I charged you 6 pounds not 6.50 for a box of salad, I don’t peel squash but nor do many chefs as it holds together better. I would never serve a salad of clergy grains and squash and you bought a salad of butter beans, fennel fronds, chilli and kasha. Afterwards you not liking it is unfortunate and an opinion that you are entitled to hold. But speculation into the mark up we make without any thought or research into the cost of production is also gravely unfair and damaging. I work 100 hour weeks along with many of the other producers, I wake up at 3 am on a Friday morning and will work non stop until 3 pm on a Sunday, without a single wink of sleep. I do it because I love it and along with the other producers carry huge transport costs, unit costs, staff, equipment and maintenance costs and most of us do not even consider our own labour in out costs, all those hours of our time will never be recovered but we believe in what we do and love it. Afterwards cheap food comes at an altogether different cost, and by all means go for it, but I believe in using food that will preserve the earth for my son’s generation and beyond, which does indeed cost, and the day that we the producers can pay ourselves an hourly wage that we pay our staff is altogether new day, so no I very much doubt that there is a conspiracy to tax the middle classes who frequent the farmers markets. Quite simply people are choosing quality and quality is laborious to produce and costly.

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