I was in Hay-on-Wye for at least two months before I discovered the community garden, and I would dare to say that it was one of the town’s best kept secrets.
I actually discovered it the day when I went with Malcolm to do the bread deliveries. I spotted the ‘organic fruit and veg’ sign as the van sailed past.
“Oh, an organic fruit and veg farm!” I said.
“Oh, yes, that’s the community garden,” Malcolm informed me. Then he proceeded to tell me all about it.
“So how come no one told me about it before?” I queried. (Gentle reader, I cannot at this stage even remember what his response was but suffice to say, I was very happy to have discovered it. It is most definitely among the good things to see and do in Hay-on-Wye)
Going to the community garden quickly became a part of my weekly routine. Every Saturday morning after my bakery shift, I’d go there to purchase vegetables. It’s one of the blessings I thanked God for in Hay-on-Wye.
During the height of summer, I had such delicious, fresh string beans, carrots, potatoes, yellow zuchinnis (I’d never had yellow zuchinnis before), chard, red onions, white onions, garlics and raspberries. I even got Charles to cut me some of the broccoli leaves a few times, and I used those to make some marvellous green smoothies!
The community garden spoiled me because after having their fare, my palate groaned at the comparative tastelessness of supermarket vegetables.
The only drawback with vegetables from the community garden was the amount of dirt I also brought home with me! But it was well worth the effort to clean them up any day.
Between the community garden and Joe, who operated an organic farm and sold his produce at the Thursday Hay market, I was amply supplied with a wide variety of tasty, pesticide-free vegetables.
I knew about Joe quite early on after moving to Hay, and occasionally I sampled some of his products. Towards the Autumn, I started getting more of his produce: he had some wonderful purple cabbages, and some white ones. And he was the one who introduced me to Cavola Nero, Cima di rapa and Kohl rabbi. When Cavola Nero Was in its high season, it became my staple green for salads, smoothies and light steaming with other cooked veggies. Altogether, these wonderful, new, winter veggies brought even more variety to my repertoire of healthy food goodies in Hay.
Gentle reader, it would be remiss of me to fail to tell you about Joe’s fermented kimchi. Yes, fermentation is not solely the domain of sourdough bakers. Along with fermentation in relation to sourdough, I had also read about fermenting vegetables but never tried it before. So when I saw jars of the stuff on Joe’s stall I decided to try one. Joe advised me to try it as an accompaniment to cheese on toast. I did. Sourdough bread and local cheese from Hay Deli, toasted and then topped with a dollop of Joe’s fermented cabbage. Gentle reader, words fail to convey the depth of flavour that filled my mouth as I took a bite for lunch. All I can say is that it’s the ultimate healthy pizza substitute that does not compromise on taste but only heightens it! And the best part about it is that if you really want to, with not much effort you can make your own fermented vegetables at home. It’s certainly going to be one of my next projects soon!
Hay-on-Wye is definitely a good foodie town, and I will certainly miss all that when I leave.