A pre-breakfast trip to my local shop on this glorious Autumn morning took me far longer than anticipated. When I got home I was greeted by two rather grumpy looking males waiting impatiently in the kitchen for a cup of tea and a of glass milk. They were not particularly interested in the reason I was late so I rushed off to the computer to upload the photographs I had taken of the amazing array of stalls outside my neighbours’ homes.
None of these were new, they were in the same positions last week and the week before that. Perhaps it was the beautiful morning Suffolk light catching the magnificent orange pumpkins that made me stop to linger for longer than I should, or the amazing eye-popping colours of the cut flowers, but whatever it was I thought the little makeshift stalls deserved to be photographed so all of you could see them. Something so simple as this homegrown cornucopia of produce looks to me just as wonderful as any masterpiece.
The variety of produce on the stalls obviously changes throughout the seasons. Gardeners start to sell their divided herbaceous garden plants in the spring, followed by young cuttings and seedlings, all jostling for space on the bulging shelves. Late spring very kindly provides us with Asparagus (worth a capital ‘A’ in my book as I regard it as a prince among veg). Grown commercially in the local area, it can be found in abundance at the fraction of the shop price, always just picked, juicy and oh so tender, warranting only the merest blanching then served simply with lashings of melted butter. Heaven.
As the weeks progress, young vegetable plants start to fill up the carts and barrows, followed by an enormous selection of fruit and vegetables fresh from the owner’s garden. The height of summer brings a glut of tomatoes of all different shapes and sizes, strawberries, various kinds of beans and a selection of cut flowers fit for the grandest of tables. Heaps and heaps of runner beans, courgettes and root veg start to earn their keep as autumn approaches. Plums and apples, both cookers and eaters, are sometimes just given away, the picture of the apple stall declaring ‘Please Help Yourself’ is by no means an isolated instance.
Halloween beckons the voluminous displays of pumpkins of all sizes. Such a wonderfully versatile vegetable, it is a terrible shame that a lot of people only use this magnificent edible centrepiece as a disposable ornament for one night of the year. They can be used in so many dishes, both savoury and sweet.They make the most delicious soft and comforting soups, just the ticket after a bracing walk on the beach or mouthwatering salads when something lighter is the order of the day.
Eggs are available most months of the year and these little gems are the best type to use if, like me, you love a perfect poached egg on your toast as they are always so fresh. With yolks the colour of sunflowers, the eggs come from happy hens allowed to scratch about in the earth, eating a rich and varied diet, free range in every sense of the word. Half a dozen eggs can be anything from 60p to £1.00, a bargain for such a versatile, healthy, great tasting little meal in a box.
No technologically typed impersonal notices here. A hand written price list accompanies the honesty box and hopefully this mutual respect and trust between the villagers will remain for the future as it would be a travesty to see this little bit of country life disappear.
November arrives bringing the winter chill. Bunches of flowers are replaced by bundles of kindling, stacked in neat piles and thoughtfully protected from the rain. The hardened winter vegetables carry on this village tradition until the earth starts to warm and the cycle of the seasons is back to life affirming spring.
How lucky we are.
PS. I didn’t have enough change in my jeans for this last item..