September Savvy: Go Organic Festival

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September is a hearty month. Autumn and harvest in a nutshell: with the gathering of food, warm colours, the landscape turning from green to orange and brown, summer heat seeping down to cool, resident birds beginning to sing again, and the influx of blackberries, apples, corn on the cob, squashes and pumpkins. Here in the UK, September and food have a particularly special relationship because this month is known as Organic September. It celebrates and promotes all things organic – a campaign to raise awareness and support farmers and producers of organic food with a sustainable, chemical-free and animal welfare focus.

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This weekend just gone 8th-9th September was the Go Organic Festival in Battersea Park, London, an event to bring together the organic foodies of Britain with chef demonstrations, talks by experts and loads of food stalls. It was a buzzing environment with lots going on for families and kids, free samples, an abundance of information, surveys, organic fruit and veg to pluck at, food trucks, a stage with music throughout both days and ‘meet the farmer’ chats.

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If you missed it I would say you ought to feel a little disappointed or envious as it was a great experience with such a positive, proactive atmosphere. It was cheering to see so many people interested in organic food come together and interact in a fun, engaging way with all types of people involved from kids to sales reps to chefs to campaign organisers to producers of plastic-free food wraps, organic chocolate, vegan burgers, baked goods and beauty products to name a few.

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It was particularly interesting to watch and listen to chefs such as Gelf Alderson of River Cottage and Emily Watkins as they made delicious meals right in front of their audience. As they cooked, they chatted to host Jay Morjaria, giving lots of tips, info about organic food, produce to buy, things to avoid and so on.

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The festival’s ‘Natural Talks’ were also absorbing, particularly those by Natalie Fee, Simon King and Helen Browning. Natalie Fee created the City to Sea campaign, helping to stop plastic pollution at source – something which is vital if we are to stem the huge flow of plastic being produced and polluting our environment, ending up in rivers, seas and landfill. As you may be aware, a high percentage of plastic doesn’t get recycled and so going to the source of the problem – the prevention of plastic being produced in the first place – is what’s required for any impactful, long term effects. It was truly inspiring to hear Natalie talk.

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Go Organic Festival was a fantastic event and particularly impressive seeing as this was its first year. I had a great time, coming away feeling more positive about the future of our food. I can’t wait to see what will be in store next September.

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Foodie’s Paradise: Partridges Food Market

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Food markets are a wonderful, traditional and natural thing – something humanity has been doing for hundreds of years as a way of trading, exchanging and buying food. They create a physical and visual circumstance where consumers can see, smell and often taste (the most important aspect of anything we eat!) food before they buy it. We can literally ‘feast’ our eyes on an array of delicious fare.

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Markets are direct, personal and unambiguous presentations of fresh ingredients and real produce, usually handmade or cooked or baked on a small scale, by passionate people. They operate on an intimate level, and not only foster interaction between one person and another, but between producer and consumer, farmer and customer, maker and eater. Furthermore, they characteristically encourage the sale and consumption of local and seasonal food. That was why and how markets first began – a local farmer or baker would set up a stall for those who lived nearby to come and purchase locally grown vegetables, or bread kneaded and baked from local wheat or rye flour, or meat reared from cows or pigs living in neighbouring fields. Today, people all over Britain and the western world are doing the same thing; in a kind of revival of something we’d lost and forgotten about for a good fifty years.

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Everything about food markets is positive and nurturing – natural, sensual, personal, local. So different to the experience we as people have when buying food at supermarkets; pushing our trolley round aisles and aisles of plastic-wrapped food in a sterile, odourless and artificial atmosphere, as if food was made by machines and just appears on the shelves out of thin air, with no human being or plant or animal or particle of soil involved in its growth and production at all.

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The great news is food and farmers markets are on the rise, becoming more and more popular, attractive, accessible and prevalent. They are quickly starting to be seen as valuable, exciting ways of purchasing and enjoying food, both in terms of buying ingredients for home cooking and as a delicious lunch or snack. Partridges Food Market is one such market, where every Saturday tens of growers, producers and companies set up their stalls in Duke of York Square for anyone in London to enjoy. It’s always heaving, and for a good reason – the array of food on offer is both amazing and mouth-watering.

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There’s raw honey from Spain; organic vegetables from Riverdale Organic Farm; cheeses from France, Wiltshire and Somerset; raw super foods by Detox Delivered; a hog roast; Chinese dumplings; paella; French crêpes and galettes; speciality curries and Indian dishes; haggis toasties; sushi made right in front of you at the stall; burgers with a range of toppings; a Brazilian pastelaria and deli; vegan cakes and biscuits; petit fours; organic sourdough breads; handmade ravioli and gnocchi… The list goes on!

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My absolute favourite stall is Rainforest Creations. Their spread of tropical-style raw salads, dips, flans, cakes and sweets is like a rainbow of vegan, plant-based, refined sugar free delight and goodness. It makes natural, healthy vegetables look like the food of the gods. And it all tastes incredible. Their salads range from tropical coleslaw and angel kale and avocado to mungbean-lentils and red quinoa. And their sprouted hummus is the best I’ve ever tasted, with subtle hints of spice, herbs and turmeric. You can get almost everything wrapped up in a corn and split lentil roti, or just a tub bursting with salad, an akashe ball and a good dollop of hummus.

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If you haven’t been to Partridges Food Market, Rainforest Creations alone is a reason to get yourself there. But it’s wonderful to just go and wander round; to see, smell and take in all the food and bustling people – to experience genuine food out in the open air and have your fill of fresh, delicious produce that’s natural, personal and real.