One of the many things that I did this year, and never thought I would, was starting to work as a trader at farmers' markets. As a food blogger, I have explored many food markets around London, spending Saturday mornings chatting to producers and trying out different street food. I love the way farmers' markets are transforming the way we live our neighbourhoods, offering a place for neighbours to gather and feel party of a community.
My chance to be involved in food markets came when Olive Branch opened a position for sales assistant. I was hesitant about applying for a weekend job, but at the same time ready for to challenge myself with a new experience. I knew I could do a good job selling olive oil, a product that I love and use on a daily basis.
On my first day, I was keen to make a good impression. The hours flew by as I hurried behind the stall, making sure everything was perfect and engaging with customers. Afterwards, I was so tired, but happy with a feeling of having worked hard in something I enjoy (and I certainly don't get that when I leave office every day...)
So far, I have been working alongside the Olive Branch business owners in two different markets: Venn Street and Brockley Market. For the first time last Saturday, I managed a stall on my own, in a market that was new to me (although it's been running for the past four years): Oval Farmers Market.
We were spared from the rain as it was a beautiful summer day! I arrived at the market around 9am to set up the stall and an hour later the garden around St Mark's Church started to fill up with traders, shoppers and picnickers (yes, this word does exist, I just checked!). ;)
Olive Branch was founded by Maria and Kamil little more than a year ago. Maria is from the Greek island of Crete and so is the Olive Oil, which is sourced from a selected group of co-operatives in South-Eastern Crete.
While working with Olive Branch, I learnt how olive oil is made and what are the characteristics that make it good. The Olive Branch oil is made from juicy olives that flourish in the Cretan sun, are hand-picked from the trees and immediately cold pressed. The result is a fresh and rich extra virgin Olive Oil with a low acidity level of less than 0.3%.
Someone asked me on Saturday if extra virgin olive oil is good for cooking, well the obvious answer is yet. The oil can be drizzled on salad and pasta, but I also use it to cook all kinds of recipes*.
Other stalls that you will find at the Oval Farmers Market are: Core Juice from Upper Mystole Park Farm in Kent, with fresh fruit juices and punnets full of berries.
There are always a few stalls selling cheese (Bath Soft Cheese Co.) and bread (Old Post Office Bakery), as well as meat, eggs, vegetables and fruit - directly from the farms in Kent (Roundwood Orchard Pig Company).
On Saturday, there was a lovely couple selling homemade jams and chutneys and even preparing sandwiches on the spot!
Galeta (which you can also find at Whitecross Market and Duke of York Square Food Market): their stall was next to mine and I can confirm that their chocolate brownies went down a storm!
More sweet treats were available at the Cakehole stall.
As it was a warm and sunny day, many people arrived at the market early to pick up a coffee at Caffe Bancarella and then sit in the park for a breakfast picnic.
People visiting at lunch time had several choices for hot food, ranging from Bokit'La (queues for their 'creole burger' and 'Guadelope sandwich'); to sausage rolls at the The Giggly Pig Co.; from cheese toasties and gluten-free crêpes to the best baked potatoes at Lardon’s.
Oval Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 10am to 3pm and can be found in St Mark's Church park, just outside Oval Underground station (on the Norther Line).
*For weekly inspiration on how to cook with extra virgin Olive Oil look at the Olive Branch Recipe Tree. You can find the Olive Branch stall at Oval Farmers Market once a month and weekly at Brockley Market. Olive Branch often organises tastings at Sourced Market and this weekend will be at the Foodies Festival in Battersea.