Jenny Chandler, Borough Market regular and author of Cool Kids Cook, on her excitement at the upcoming Young Marketeers’ Summer Sale
Images: John Holdship
This week I’m incredibly excited to be joining children from a number of south east London primary schools for the Young Marketeers’ Summer Sale, as they sell their own fruit and vegetables at Borough Market. It’s the fifth year that the Market has worked with the School Food Matters charity on the project, and it goes from strength to strength. I can’t wait to see the pride on the children’s faces as they set up stalls of the salad leaves, herbs, vegetables and fruit they’ve spent months growing and nurturing back in their school grounds.
Growing food is a lesson in life with so many benefits. For many of us living in big cities a few pots of herbs on the kitchen window sill are as close as we ever get to nurturing a plant, but these children have had the opportunity to grow food from scratch, with all the high points and setbacks along the way. Gardening takes patience, care and determination (especially when the slugs have had a good night) before you get to reap your rewards. When children make a connection with nature and the food chain they can’t fail to see, and begin to understand, the difference between natural ingredients and highly processed fast food.
Bee Wilson, author of First Bite attests that we learn what to eat, acquiring our food habits as we’re growing up, rather than being born with likes and dislikes. What better time to give a child the chance to taste and experience as many natural foods as possible? There’s no doubt that the broader our tastes and the more varied our diets the healthier we’ll be. Kids are so much more likely to try the fruit and vegetables that are so essential in a healthy diet if they have been involved in the rewarding process of growing them. Who can resist a freshly dug radish or a strawberry plucked straight from the stem? The crop is the goal, the prize at the end of weeks of hard work—you surely have to take a bite.
Setting up stalls and selling the produce takes organisation and confidence. I worked at the autumn harvest sale a couple of years ago and was blown away by the determination and commitment the children showed to selling their wares.
Vitally important issue
Profits from the school stalls will be going to the charity Fareshare which works to reduce the amount of wasted food that ends up as land-fill. Much of the surplus food is redistributed to charities providing food to vulnerable families. Food waste is such a vitally important issue and these kids, having put all that energy into growing their produce, will be more mindful about throwing out good ingredients than most.
I’ll be cooking with some of the young gardeners on Thursday, using plenty of the freshly picked produce. I’m planning a vegetable dish rather like a risotto using whole grains and seeds such as freekah and quinoa (you could always use brown rice but hey, we’re up for new tasting experiences). We’ll make a simple fruit tart too; I’m hoping for strawberries and rhubarb, one of my favourite summer combinations. And, while the children have a well-earned lunch, I’m going to whip up a super-quick squid salad in readiness for all those weeks of al fresco dining ahead!
Join Jenny on Thursday 7th July 12-1.30pm to support this project and pick up some fantastically fresh and very local produce. Tips, tasters and recipes will be available from the demo kitchen as usual