There’s nought Blue about Blueberries

One of the high spots of the year for me is the arrival of the first blueberries from Horsham.  The season may be short – eight weeks or so – but it is packed with six varieties of blueberries, each with their own special flavour and becoming sweeter as the summer progresses.

Our Horsham blueberries are grown on fertile clay soil in Lower Beeding by Bob Hewitt of Selehurst Gardens (better known to us as Blueberry Bob).  Over the years he has transformed a relatively small area into an extremely productive site and the weather this year has helped to improve this productivity.  Last year the long, early Summer temperatures took their toll on the blueberry plants and the season finished before August was out.

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I can recall my first tasting of a Blueberry Bob berry so vividly.  The sweet, flavoursome taste and amazing juiciness brought a huge grin to my face.  “This is heaven” I thought as I dived back into the punnet! Unsurprisingly, as we encourage people at our markets to taste the berries I have learnt that my reaction was not unique to me!  Collectively us “lovers of blueberries from Bob” could be deemed to be “people who know what they like”, but we think we fall into the category of having a “well-developed palette” as these blueberries are used by the Michelin 1 chef, Tom Kemble, at South Lodge in Lower Beeding.  I rest our case!

We have always been fascinated by these blueberries and why they can sell so well, at double the price, to those in London but are not generally appreciated in their home territory of Sussex. So we ran a taste test at Horsham Market a few years ago.  We bought some organic blueberries from Waitrose – variety Duke and from Poland. We had some Duke variety from Blueberry Bob on our stall at the same time.  The Waitrose blueberries were more expensive (a little aside, but important to us).  Customers and passers-by were invited to taste one of each and to provide a comparison. The facial expressions presented us with the best reactions.  The Polish blueberries were sharp and tasteless and usually generated a grimace. Blueberry Bob’s Duke blueberries mostly generated a satisfactory smile (and often a purchase – a double win!).

Whilst initially I was sold on these blueberries by their taste, I soon found out their health benefits – for young and old.  My grand-daughter was weaned on these blueberries and was declared the healthiest baby seen by the doctor for a long time at one of her early progress appointments.

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Blueberries are considered a superfood today but have been used for their medicinal properties for centuries.  American Indians used blueberry leaves as a tonic for colicky babies and in Europe the fruit itself was used to cure diarrhoea, dysentery and scurvy as well as circulatory problems and eye diseases. In particular, blueberries were used to treat diabetic retinopathy (an eye disease associated with diabetes) and some physicians still use it as part of treatments.

Top researchers, Béliveau and Gingras, were particularly interested in this traditional use of blueberries for diabetic retinopathies as the latter are caused by “uncontrolled angiogenesis” in blood vessels, a phenomenon which is instrumental in the growth of cancer tumours.  Their research suggests that molecules known as anthocyanidins (found abundantly in blueberries) can be responsible for the anti-angiogenic effects of these berries and slow the growth of tumours.  Angiogenesis is a process whereby the cancer tumours, which require food and oxygen to grow, trigger chemical signals to attract the cells of blood vessels located nearby.  These blood vessels react by clearing a path to the tumour by dissolving the surrounding tissue and forming a new blood vessel thus facilitating the flow of food and oxygen to the tumour.

Research has determined that benefits of blueberries include improvement of cognitive health (this has to be a subject of a future blog as it is quite technical, but associated with the antioxidant content acting as a “de-rusting agent”), prevents urinary tract infection occurring, helps anti-ageing and improves skin, heart and eyes through its mineral and vitamin content.

These guys are so under-estimated because we have them throughout the year.  But, the greatest benefit will be achieved from the farm fresh ones that are produced locally and are available on our website.

 

 

 

 

 

Salad Days

‘O Summer sun, O moving trees!

O cheerful human noise, O busy glittering street!

What hour shall Fate in all the future find.

Or what delights, ever to equal these:

Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind,

Only to be alive, and feel that life is sweet.

Laurence Binyon

 

According to the ancient Chinese, the secret of good health was to live in harmony with nature. They saw a balanced life as one that does not continually disregard the rhythms of nature, but one that observes and adapts to the natural flow of things.

One of the most fundamental links to nature we have is through our diet. By eating the food that grows around us from season to season, we can maintain our connection with the earth and receive the best nourishment to support and balance us.

Spring merges into Summer on 21 June, when we experience the longest amount of daylight of the year, the Summer Solstice. During the Summer, nature begins to bloom and manifest her magnificent glory.  We have the widest possible choice of food to pick from.

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This includes foods that represent every earthly colour, nourishes the body with the rainbow of pigments. The reds of cherries and tomatoes, the oranges of carrots and nectarines, the greens of cucumbers courgettes and peas, the yellows of peppers and peaches and the mauves and blues of aubergine and grapes.

Leaves, stems, assorted green beans, herbs, and fresh fruit are just some of the delicious plants available, making it a perfect season to take a bite into raw – salads galore!

Salad Dressings

You can breathe life into everything from a humble rice noodle to an array of different salads with a simple salad dressing. If they’re too much like hard work then you won’t use them and salads can quickly become dull.

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The Classic Dressing

From this basic recipe, play around with it by adding any of the ingredients you LIKE to it and just give it a try. Have fun and find your own exciting combinations.

(Makes approximately 130mls and will keep for a week in the fridge).

In a glass jar, add a finely chopped clove of garlic (or crush a clove in a garlic crusher)! To this add:

  • 6 tbsps of olive oil
  • 2 tbsps of flax oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of lecithin granules

Put the lid on tightly and shake like mad!

Dress up your dressing: From here, eat it as it is or get creative – add a pinch of cumin powder to it or some fresh herbs like mint or basil or pop a quarter of a teaspoon of mustard in to spice it up!

Let’s Go Birding!

After our last blog post about insects,  I’m sure you’ve all been keeping your eyes to the ground! Now it’s time to look up though – with the bird breeding season upon us it’s well worth keeping an eye on the trees and hedgerows to see who’s around. Below we’ve listed a few of our favourites to keep an eye on – particularly if you have bird feeders in your garden. Thank you to Rosie from the Wilde & Greene farm shop for her amazing photographs.

 

  1. Chaffinch

These little delights are a lovely addition to any garden. Their distinctive colouring (red with a bluish grey head for males, a more subdued brown and buff for the females) separates them from other finches. Look for their obvious black and white wing bars in flight.

During nesting season these little birds make a distinctive frog-like ‘kkk-kkk’ if you venture too close to their nests, and loud ‘feep’ calls can often be heard coming out of hedgerows and trees.

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2.  Dunnock

This lesser known sparrow is the real life ‘little brown job’ of the bird world.  Sometimes called a ‘hedge sparrow’ you will often see them skulking around the ground underneath bird feeders, hedgerows and bushes. For something so normal looking, Dunnocks have extremely interesting breeding methods. It’s always the quiet ones. Listen for a high-pitched, rather frantic chatter coming from hedges.

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3.  Greenfinch

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Greenfinches love black sunflower seeds! They are bright little birds with a twittering (sometimes a bit jurassic) song. They’re common on heathland, in parks and gardens and in woodland.  Their distinctive green-green plumage and black-tipped wings make them easy to spot.

 

4. Great Tit

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Great Tits are very easy to tell apart from other members of the tit family. They have a long, pointed beak and a very black head. They’re much larger than blue tits, and their plumage tends to be more green than blue, with a yellow chest. It’s a very common garden and bird feeder visitor. You can hear its very distinctive two syllabled ‘teacher-teacher’ call pretty much anywhere you go.

 

5.  Long Tailed Tit

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These lovely little birds are a common favourite. They fly from tree to tree in excitable family units devouring insects as they go. You’ll often find them on fat-ball feeders. They have an almost electric sounding repeated ‘sceep’ call  which is hard to miss when they’re around! Long-Tailed Tits are easy to spot – they’re little rose-pink, white and black fluff balls with very long tails and short beaks.

 

6.  Goldfinch

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Other than an extremely distinctive bubbling chatter, Goldfinches are incredibly easy to recognise because of their read faces, black caps and yellow and black wings. They’re common visitors to bird tables, gardens and parks, although I often see them sitting on top of houses on aerials chatting away to one another.

 

7.  Barn Swallow

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They’ll be back soon! Swallows migrate here from March until October for the summer and nest inside old farm buildings. They have a distinctive chatter with a ‘kkk’ noise coming from the throat added in for good measure. Barn Swallows have such a distinctive shape – a deep forked tail with long streamers and pointed, elegantly curved wings, you’ll most likely see them on the wing, playing and flying through the air catching insects as they go.  They have white undersides, red throats and blue bodies.

 

8.  Great Spotted Woodpecker

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These striking birds have black and white plumage with strong red undersides. The male also has a distinctive red patch on the back of his head. You’ll more likely hear them rather than see them when they’re in trees  – either a loud drumming or a loud call that is almost like a laugh, which they often do in flight too.

Rosie was lucky enough to have one on her bird feeder, where they can sometimes be spotted (they like peanuts). Otherwise, look out for them in woodland, parks and large gardens.

 

With numbers in strong decline, it’s more important than ever to take notice of the birds that we have in our local area. Why not keep a record of the species that you see – maybe even keep a tally on numbers to monitor the birds year on year? Even if you decide not too, they’re still nice just to look at!

 

The 4 R’s

At Greener Greens we, like many people, avidly practice the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – to cut down waste, conserve natural resources, landfill space and energy.  But something I saw today prompts an additional R – resourcefulness.


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I was at the Dorking recycling centre (aka “the dump”) which sadly the local council has voted to close, although closure has now been delayed until the end of September.  As I put a black bin into the landfill/burn container one of the recycling team split it open to reveal its contents.  “Why are you doing that?” I said. And this is what I was told…

On recognising the folly of the planned closure, the team thought they would prove the value of their service by opening each black bin deposited, reclaiming (yet another R!) items that can be recycled and keeping a tally of the amount their actions earned the council. Within the first fortnight they had reclaimed 2 tons of clothing for which the council receives 50p per kg and many tons of other items.  To date the team has gained the council thousands of pounds.  And so impressed is the council with their trial that it has allocated funds to help their efforts.

I saw 3 bags opened today and each contained bottles, paper and other recyclable items.  Sadly one third of the contents of one bag was recyclable, demonstrating that we still have a way to go.  But this wonderful team at Dorking is busily generating the statistics that enable a better message to be presented to us all.  And they have given a new dimension to “protesting”!

We shall be campaigning to keep this recycling centre open and the team in jobs. And to do that, we will be following the progress of this trial.

Why Rainbows are Important

Spare a thought for your poor old liver, who might have had a hard time this Christmas. It’s your biggest detoxifying organ, and to do its job properly it needs a solid supply of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants to function well.

You don’t need to go on a major detox diet after Christmas to start feeling better – just by eating organically you’re helping your body jumpstart into doing what it does best – keeping you healthy, happy and balanced.

One way of ensuring that you’re giving your body everything that it needs is to remember this golden rule – always put a rainbow on your plate.  Coloured vegetables contain different nutrients, all of which are important to your  body. By including vegetables of every colour in to your meals, you’re ensuring that you’re giving your body everything it needs to be at it’s best.

Instead of resorting to the same recipes or choosing the same ‘safe’ fruits and vegetables this January, why not start to experiment with the fresh produce that you’re eating? Below are a list of key colours and vegetables, along with their health benefits, to get you on your way.

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Green Veg

Why not try… Broccoli, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard, celery, cabbage, avocado, kiwi fruit, romanesco cauliflower, leeks, runner beans or peas?

Health benefits:  Green veg is great for your skin and hair!  Vegetables such leafies (especially kale) are rich in calcium, which ensures strong teeth and bones. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and lutein are great for maintaining healthy eyes and sight, as well as aiding in preventing muscular degeneration.

 

Red and Purple Veg

Why not try… Tomatoes, red peppers, cherries, beetroot, purple cabbage, purple kale, purple sprouting broccoli, aubergine, red onion, purple carrots or strawberries?

Health Benefits:  Red wine is said to be good for your heart because it contains an antioxidant, called resveratrol, which can boost your health. The purple pigment in all of these fruits and vegetables contains resveratrol and flavonoids which can help decrease blood pressure by helping to relax the arterial walls, thereby decreasing the pressure in the arteries and allowing better circulation.

In addition to reducing heart disease risk, antioxidants in foods like those listed above can reduce the risk of certain cancers, like colon and prostate cancer.

 

Yellows and Orange Veg

Why not try…Squash, bananas, swede, carrots, apples and pears, citrus fruits, yellow and orange peppers or golden beetroot?

Health benefits: Citrus is probably best-known for containing Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and can protect your body from disease. But that’s not all that the vitamin is good for—it also promotes healthy skin and vision, and protects against heart disease and prenatal health problems. They also contain beta-carotene, which is excellent for maintaining eyesight.

 

White Veg

Why not try…Potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, white cabbage, celeriac, turnips, cauliflower, bok choy or onions?

Health benefits: When making the rainbow on your plate, don’t forget the more neutral shades! White coloured vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, containing nutrients like magnesium, fibre and potassium that are often lacking in many of our diets.

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There are so many vegetables out there for you to try – as long as you reach for the rainbow, you can try every combination under the sun and still get everything that your body needs to perform at its best! Experimenting with new foods and cooking techniques can be extremely rewarding, especially if you know that the end result is a far healthier lifestyle for you and your family.

To see the full rainbow range of organic vegetables that we have on offer at the moment, please visit our website!

Christmas Dinners & Festive Feelings

Every year we team up with several local organisations and charities to help others at Christmas by putting together an “unwrapped” present scheme that benefits others in your community. Unwrapped gifts are a way of giving two gifts in one – you can buy a gift for a cause you really believe in on behalf of one of your friends or family.

We have developed our Greener Greens Unwrapped gifts over several years. We work with local Children’s Centres and charities to bring fresh organic veg, fruit and one or two sweeter goodies to local families and individuals who could benefit from help at Christmas.

Last year our Unwrapped gifts fed over 350 people with 450kg of fruit and veg going to Crawley in our family bags and over 115kg of fresh produce going to Redhill for the VARB Festive Feast.  We cannot do this without our amazing customers and are particularly grateful to those who have participated since we started it about 10 years ago.

We supply the produce at cost, and our team fill the bags before passing them to the organisation or Childrens’ Centre for distribution. The family bag contains 8kg of veggies and fruit. You pay for the bag, let the team know who you are buying it on behalf of and Greener Greens send your friend or relative a card letting them know what you have bought.

This year we will provide fresh organic produce to VARB – (Voluntary Action Reigate & Banstead) for the second year running. VARB devote themselves to building connections between charities and businesses and working together for the benefit of local people. They are holding a ‘Festive Feast’ lunch on Christmas Day for those who either spend Christmas Day alone, or families who can’t afford a Christmas lunch.   We at Greener Greens are selling 20 “bags” of produce for this event with each bag comprising sufficient food for a 7 people.  Thus we raise enough money to pay for produce for 140 and the wonderful team at VARB can concentrate on entertaining those who need it most this Christmas.

This year we’re also donating fresh fruit to the children of  St Clement’s Catholic Primary School for them to eat throughout their Christmas events instead of other unhealthier options!

So if you can afford to help spread the joy of giving this Christmas, then please consider helping us out to help ensure that others can enjoy their Christmas too. In addition to giving lots of local people a head start at Christmas, you are helping to support our independent growers.  Please get in touch with us if you are interested in buying a bag for someone this Christmas!

If you would like to get involved or find out more about VARB please contact  lisa@varb.org.uk or call 01737 762 115.

Winter Soup Recipes

As you’re probably aware, we’ve opened a shop in Suffolk (apologies for the non-stop talk about it!)

One thing we’ve started doing at the shop is selling takeaway soups using the organic produce that we sell, which have been going down a storm.  We’ve had a lot of interest in the recipes that we use, so we thought we’d share a few of them here.  The ones that I’ll tell you about are all of the recipes that I’ve used in the past week.  All of the produce is seasonal and is available now through the box scheme on the Greener Greens website.

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Butternut Squash, Red Pepper & Sweet Potato Soup

  • One large butternut squash, peeled and halved
  • Two red peppers
  • Two medium sweet potatoes, halved
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • One vegetable stock cube in 700ml hot water
  • One handful of green lentils

This one is dead easy  – simply roast the peeled butternut squash and the halved sweet potatoes at 180 degrees in the oven for around ten minutes. Whilst they’re roasting, chop the garlic cloves and the peppers and gently fry them until soft and then add the nutmeg.

Then, add the squash and the sweet potato into the pan and add the stock with the water. Let the pan simmer with the lid on until everything is soft. Then, blend the mixture using a hand blender. Add more water if you require a thinner soup, and add more nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. We add chopped parsley too.

 

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Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 500g orange carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • One clove of garlic
  • One red pepper

This soup is a really lovely winter warmer. I kept it quite thick when I sold it in the shop, again with chopped parsley on top. The colour is gorgeous on this one (unlike the purple carrot one!) So

Chop and boil the carrots in water that just covers over the top of them. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, turmeric, chilli and ginger in a pan. Once the carrots have softened, add the fried ingredients to the pan and blend using a hand blender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Purple Carrot, Chilli, Ginger & Turmeric Soup

  • Two bunches of purple carrots
  • Half a chilli
  • One clove of garlic
  • One arm of ginger (or more to taste)
  • One finger of turmeric
  • One handful of green lentils.

This soup has a great kick, but looks very dark. The lentils add a beautiful glossy sheen to the soup when blended. This one is better thinned out and is delicious with natural yoghurt and coriander on top.

Chop and boil the carrots and lentils in water that just covers over the top of them. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, turmeric, chilli and ginger in a pan. Once the carrots have softened, add the fried ingredients to the pan and blend using a hand blender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Pumpkin, Red Pepper & Nutmeg soup

  • One large pumpkin
  • One courgette
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • One large onion
  • Three red peppers, roughly chopped
  • Nutmeg, a generous amount
  • 750ml stock

This soup is a lovely looking winter warmer. It’s a great use for a pumpkin that’s been designed for eating and not carving!

Fry the onion, courgette, garlic and peppers in oil with the nutmeg until they have softened. In the meantime get stuck into the pumpkin! Scrape out the seeds and peel off the skin before cutting into chunks and adding into the mix. Don’t add the stock for a few minutes – let the pumpkin soften in the heat before adding it in. Once it’s in, put the lid on the pan and allow to simmer for around ten minutes, or until the pumpkin is softened.

Once everything has gone a bit mushy, blend with a hand blender and add salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped basil on top if you like, it compliments the soup really quote nicely!

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We’re Backing British Farming, and it’s Exciting!

Today is Back British Farming day!  Did you know that UK food self-sufficiency is now just 61% – down from 75% in 1991?  The campaign by countryside magazine highlights acres of reasons why British farming deserves your support, as well as offering you the chance to make a real difference.

The day coincides with the week that we took part in Go! Organic –  a London-based festival encouraging people to take part in organic living. We built and constructed a pop-up farm shop for the people of London, at which we showcased five of our key British growers.

The event was a huge success, with people lining up to buy our produce! We were very proud to be able to shout about the growers  – Sunshine & Green, Cherry Gardens, Tablehurst Farm, Dynamic Organics and Sweet Apples Orchard. Daniel from Orchard Farm’s eggs also went down a storm.  We had several comments on the quality of our produce, with some people even asking if it was real – the ultimate compliment.

We pride ourselves on our growers and the quality of our produce and our British farmers who are working hard to enhance the British countryside, protect the environment, maintain habitats for native plants and animals and support wildlife species. Whether it’s helping birds get through the winter months by putting down seed, establishing woodlands and hedgerows to create habitat for animals or planting fields of pollen and nectar rich flower mixes to feed bees and butterflies, British farmers are taking action every day.

Our growers take real pride in the land that they grow on, and try to encourage and enhance wildlife every step of the way. For example, Jonathan at Cherry Gardens Farm collects fallen apples over the summer and stores them until the winter, when he puts them out for the birds that may be struggling with the frozen ground, and Blueberry Bob in Horsham practises biannual thinning and coppicing of  woodland on the farm, which has encouraged flora and shrubs such as bluebells, narcissi and snowdrops, buddleia and elder and has recently received a forestry commission grant for coppicing regeneration.

With the spirit of buying British in mind – it’s time to introduce our new line of BRITISH GROWN pulses and grains! We’ve started stocking Hodmedod’s, who specialise in British grown chick peas, spelt grain, lentils, and – for the first time – British grown Quinoa. We’re very excited to have them on board, and are hoping that you can revolutionise your cupboards and eat more of these protein-based little treasures, safe in the knowledge that they’ve come from a local grower with a transparent food chain.

Buying British has never been more important. With climate change, rising diet-related ill-health and widespread declines in our wildlife, the need to produce healthy food, cut food miles and protect our wildlife is getting more important. Choosing how we eat is a simple but powerful form of direct action:

 

1.BUY BRITISH

  • Buy British food with a transparent supply chain – so you know the journey that your food has taken to get to your table. This way you can ensure that your food is of the highest quality, and that the farmer who grew it has been cut a fair deal.

 

2. EAT WITH THE SEASONS

  • You can check out the Great British Larderto find out when British fruit and veg are at their best. It’s important to eat seasonal produce because that allows you to buy British all year round. This cuts food miles and guarantees that your food has come from a place of quality.


3. CARE FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE

  • British farmers are custodians of around 75% of the British countryside. It’s important that we too take responsibility for it too.  Whilst out enjoying the countryside, make sure you take your litter home, follow the countryside code, and if out with your four legged friends, keep them on a lead around livestock and pick up after them.


At Greener Greens we take pride in our growers. All of them are independent, certified organic or biodynamic, and take great pride in their produce. This shows in the quality of the produce in our boxes that we send out weekly. The farms that we collect from all take great steps to preserve and encourage their natural environments and habitats. If you shop with us, you can guarantee that you’re backing British farming.

Ham Parade Market

We at Greener Greens believe that fresh, organic produce should be available to everyone. This is why we sell at markets on a regular basis. We are at Horsham Market twice a week (Thursday and Saturday), as well as at Ham Parade Market once a month.

 

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Ham market takes place from 10am – 2pm on the first Saturday of every month, bringing fresh produce to Ham Parade, as well as tasty street food, beautiful local crafts and entertainment for all the family.

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Ham Parade Market is plastic bag free. This means that you’re actively encouraged to bring your own bags, or buy a ‘Ham Bag’ once at the market. There’s a huge variety of stalls at Ham – everything from street food to arts & crafts, fresh produce and meat & dairy products.​

Each month, Ham Parade Market support a local charity by running a raffle to win a HAMper of goodies.   (This month they are supporting The Basement Door, a Richmond-based organisation providing training and support for talented young musicians.) All the money you spend and donate at the markets really does help the local community – since the market launched in October, Ham Parade Market have already raised well over £3,000 for local charities.

 

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Greener Greens always have a stall at this market, and we really enjoy the atmosphere. We are the only organic stall at the market – and the locally grown organic produce that we sell always goes down a storm (particularly our biodynamic eggs – one customer buys at least six boxes at a time!)  It’s very rewarding to be able to provide a community with such high quality produce and to give people the option to buy food that has been grown the right way. We hope to see you at the next market – Saturday August 4th!