“You may have heard that Dorset has a wealth of fine local food producers spread across our county working hard to grow or source the finest ingredients,” says Heather from East Dorset Foodie. This is very much the case – Dorset is home to countless award-winning restaurants, tea rooms, pubs and seafront cafes. But, as Heather points out, whilst on holiday in Dorset enjoying the stunning landscapes, it can often be difficult to know where to find the best of local fine food to “complement the gorgeous vista.”
Heather’s answer? “The easiest and best way to get a taste is to visit one of a number of the regular farmers’ markets that happen regularly across the county”. Dorset is a hive of activity when it comes to local markets, many having won prestigious accolades. For instance, in 2015 Bridport Farmers' Market won the Best Farmers' Market category, for the second year running, at the Dorset Magazine Food and Farming Awards ceremony.
Dorset’s farmers’ markets are the best place to find high-quality, authentic food that reflects the character and diversity of the county. As Heather says, these markets are “the perfect collection of local producers - often containing vegetable growers, fishmongers, butchers and bakers, as well as number of other producers of goods such as oils, jams, olives, spirit distilleries and condiments - plenty to source ingredients for a delicious meal.”
Local produce enthusiast and blogger Elisabeth from Real Food Lover agrees, commenting: “Buying food direct from the person who produced it is one of life’s joys. Go with a big shopping basket and an open mind; be prepared to slightly adjust any supermarket mind-set. For a start, seasonality is a given because the food is local. OK, so you won’t get endless choice from the rest of the globe but the freshness of food grown locally - that has not been chilled for days - is unbeatable.”
Market stalls in the county are largely organised by Dorset Farmers’ Markets, a non-profit company who arrange six regular markets at monthly intervals around the area. The markets are run by the producers for the producers, and as Joanna Teatman explains, their ethos is strong: “All produce sold at our markets must be reared, grown, caught or made by the person selling it, using local ingredients wherever possible.”
If you want to know the ultimate farmers’ markets in the Dorset area, what to look out for and which delicious recipes you can rustle up with their fresh local produce, look no further than our top five guide!
Bridport farmers’ market
Best for: Meat and fish, all locally sourced.
Star finds: Fresh local shellfish from Dorset Shellfish.
Cook up: The perfect Sunday roast!
A trip to Bridport farmers’ market will either give you a serious case of countryside nostalgia, or make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a historical scene of quaint portside life. The traditional manufacture of ropes, twine and netting, which once supplied fleet cordage, continues here, making for truly enchanting surroundings to this brilliant regular market.
On every second Saturday of the month from 9am to 1pm at the Arts Centre on South Street, you can expect to find on average 30 stalls selling everything from freshly caught fish from the gateway to the Jurassic coast to mouth-watering shellfish from Dorset Shellfish. Recently voted “Best Farmers’ Market in Dorset”, this weekly event is as impressive for its local dishes as for its stunning surroundings.
You can even find the fruits of Dorset’s coast at farmers’ markets across the country. As Elisabeth says: “I still remember the joy of coming across a farmers’ market in Exeter on the way to the train station back to Bristol. I bought peppery rocket, a traditionally-baked sourdough loaf from Emma’s Bread, and fresh sprats for a fiver (and enough to feed six) caught wild from the Dorset coast. You just can’t beat that kind of shopping experience.”
Our recipe recommendation
A visit to the Saturday Bridport farmers’ market is perfectly followed by a classic chicken roast dinner the following lunchtime. Pick up some juicy lemons, substitute Robyn’s suggested dried Italian herb seasoning with some fresh thyme, sage and rosemary from Bridport, and sprinkle fresh rosemary and garlic over your roast potatoes. You could even use some local honey and wholegrain mustard to add a delicious sweet flavour to sausages, and season your roasted root veg with some warm smoked paprika.
Shaftesbury farmers’ market
Best for: Bread! Look out for Orchard Bay Bakery’s delicious loaves.
Star find: See if you can get your hands on some specially-made Hovis bread.
Cook up: A warming spiced pumpkin and coconut soup.
Originally a pilgrimage site after being founded by the Saxons, Shaftesbury once made its mark as a button manufacturing hub, which is perhaps why the area remains home to so many talented craftspeople today. But the food of the area is equally as famous – this is the town from which none other than the creators of Hovis hailed.
In between visiting famous landmarks such as Gold Hill (of Hovis fame) and the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey, head over to the impressive Town Hall, where on the first Saturday of every month from 9am to 1pm, the monthly farmers’ market is held beside medieval St. Peter’s Church. A wide variety of food and drink is available from over 15 traders, selling everything from brilliant bread to local crafts.
Our recipe recommendation
The cold winter evenings after a stroll around Shaftesbury farmers’ market call for one thing – a nice warming bowl of soup. Switch up the usual winter vegetable soup for something a little bit different by making a delectable coconut and pumpkin soup to complement Shaftesbury’s famous fresh bread. Use a locally-grown pumpkin with a couple of tins of coconut milk, and add in some garlic, onions, and a little chilli. Blitz it all into a smooth soup and dunk in your bread in pure delight whilst nestled in front of a Dorset holiday cottage traditional log burner!
Sherborne Farmers’ Market
Best for: Scrumptious fresh fruit from Elwell Fruit Farm.
Star find: The Dorset Pie Company’s seasonal venison and chorizo pie.
Cook up: The family favourite apple crumble or pie.
Nestled amongst the ancient golden stone buildings and narrow winding streets of Sherborne, you will find Sherborne farmers’ market every third Friday of the month from 9am to 1pm on Cheap Street. After rising early to gaze at the stunning sight of the Abbey, founded in 988, emerging in the sunset, visit the market for a multitude of amazing produce and dishes.
On average 30 stalls offer award-winning coffee, local handcrafts, hugely popular sweet treats such as Purbeck Ice Cream’s salted caramel ice cream and much more. There are also some beautiful flower stands with fresh, colourful blooms to catch your eye. Sherborne farmers’ market even won a Highly Commended award in the Best Farmers’ Market category in the Dorset Magazine Food and Farming Awards!
Everyone loves a good crumble, and with so many sumptuous seasonal fruits on offer at Sherborne farmers’ market, this is the ideal choice for a special dessert. It may well be that you’ve had a family apple crumble recipe passed down through generations, but if you’d like to mix it up a little, why not consider adding some cinnamon to the crumble or including some raspberries to Elwell Fruit Farm’s local apples for a tangy edge?
Purbeck Products Farmers’ Market
Best for: Truly authentic local dishes, from condiments to cakes.
Star find: Jurassic Cottage Foods’ Ramson Wild Garlic Concentrate.
Cook up: Wild garlic choux potatoes to complement any dish.
If you’re committed to supporting local economies and also love great food, Purbeck Products Farmers’ Market is the perfect day out. The second Saturday of every month from 9am to 1pm, a whole host of local producers take to the streets of the town laden with freshly-baked bread and cakes, vegetables from local organic gardens, meat farmed just around the corner and much more. This is as fresh as food gets!
As Elisabeth comments, “It’s a thrill buying eggs from the person who fed the chickens, or carrots from the farmer who pulled them out of the ground that morning. I even feel good handing over my money because it goes direct to the producer, and no middleman to take a cut. It will also benefit your pocket. For instance, if you want to eat organic on a budget, it's worth knowing that fresh organic food bought direct from the grower is similar price to (or cheaper than) its supermarket counterpart.” This is exactly what you’ll find at Purbeck Products Farmers’ Market!
Our recipe recommendation
A particular highlight is Jurassic Cottage Foods, which has quite the reputation for its unique, delicious flavours of jams, marmalades and preserves. Their Wild Garlic Concentrate is the perfect memento to take home to remind you of your Dorset holiday, taking you back to walks through the fertile fields. Why not try something a little more ambitious to accompany your next special meal, and try your hand at dauphine potatoes? Formed from a gloriously light choux paste base infused with wild garlic paste, these crispy potato treats are deep-fried until golden and crispy, making for the perfect canapé or side dish for sharing meals.
Wareham Home Producers’ Market
Best for: Preserves.
Star finds: Butter tablet.
Cook up: A spread of cheese, crackers and meats to try out with their delicious preserves.
Once upon a time, Wareham was known for its quay, which was the place where great sailing vessels docked between trips to France and beyond. Now, the quay is a place to unwind on a river cruise or paddle steamer – and also somewhere where locals head with an impromptu picnic after visiting Wareham Home Producers’ Market.
The town is gaining a reputation as a focal point for locally produced foods, as every second and fourth Thursday in the month, a farmers’ market is held at the Corn Exchange in the Town Hall. Here, dozens of local producers bring their food, drinks and crafts for sale. The Home Producers’ Market is held each Thursday in the United Reformed Church, offering up organic fresh fruit and vegetables, brilliant perennial plants, handmade jewellery, home-made preserves and much more.
Our recipe recommendation
If you’re looking for a simple way to enjoy your bounty of treats from Wareham Home Producers’ Market, there’s no better way to do so than with the perfect Ploughman’s. All you need to do is select the best of the fine foods you’ve picked up (perhaps a Dorset Blue Vinney, the ultimate Ploughman’s cheese) and create a tempting spread of cheeses, hams, cured meats, breads, crackers and grapes.
If this article has inspired you to try out any of these recipes, or if you have suggestions on what to cook using your Dorset farmers’ market finds, share your photos on Facebook or Twitter and be sure to tag us!
For a full listing of Dorset’s farmers markets, go to Visit Dorset’s directory, or type in the hashtag #DorsetHour to Twitter. For more recommendations for some great places to eat in the county, check out @eastdorsetfoodie on Twitter and Instagram.