With the days becoming cooler and crisper after a long, hot summer, thoughts turn to the flavours of autumn and there’s no better place to witness the change of seasons than at a farmers’ market. The Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market is the largest in South Australia and attracts up to 5000 locals and tourists every Sunday morning. Established in 2006 with the assistance of the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society, the non-profit organisation supports small family farms and regional producers who sell fresh, seasonal produce directly to consumers. It’s an authentic South Australian experience and has become a regular outing for me and my daughter Georgi.
We grab a coffee at the From Scratch coffee caravan at the entrance, which is excellent as usual, and await the bell that heralds the opening of the market. Buskers start up, buckets of flowers are whirled out, bacon and eggs sizzle on barbeques and outdoor tables soon fill up with a hungry breakfast crowd.
Our first stop, however, is always Patlin Gardens, the overflowing vegetable stall owned by Lina Verilli and Pat D’Onofrio, an engaging character who bellows his wares and dispenses earnest tips and advice on cooking to entertain the long queue already waiting. It’s one of the things I most love about farmers’ markets, the direct connection to ‘the source’. Their farm on the Gawler River produces a mind-boggling selection of seasonal and unusual pesticide-free vegetables grown outdoors all year round. The fertile soil is enhanced by organic manures, compost and seaweed extract. Today there are beautiful bunches of multi-coloured carrots, ears of new-season corn, trumpet squash and squat orange pumpkins. Tempting as always are the tasty olives from their extensive olive grove, dressed in garlic, lemon pepper, oregano and sea salt, along with delicious extra virgin olive oil, homemade passata and Lina’s chilli sauce flavoured with their own jalapenos.
Next door is Willibrand Figs and just a bite into one of their soft-poached figs that has been gently dried and enrobed in thick, dark Belgian chocolate, and you will think you have gone to heaven. Willibrand’s orchard is in the Adelaide Hills and during the short but sweet fig season from February to the end of April, they welcome visitors to pick their own figs.
There are so many wonderful stalls that I can’t possibly do justice to them all in one post, but later on, I will tell you more about the delectable artisanal cheeses from Alexandrina, owned by fourth generation cheesemakers who have individually named their 80 Jersey cows…and about the ‘Pork Man’ from Minniribbie Berkshere Pig Farm with free-range sausages so good that I had to call my father to tell him I had rediscovered a taste from my grandmother’s kitchen. And then there’s the cloudy Kalangadoo organic apple juice from the Limestone Coast, available March to September.
At this time of the year the market is awash with crisp apples and Packham pears but I simply can’t finish without mentioning From Scratch pâtisserie, the place to go for your morning pastry fix. These delicious French and Italian inspired treats will make you dream and drool and Adelaidians can’t get enough! This morning the wait was so long that I gave up on my sfogliatelle with its light, luscious layers of wafer-thin pastry, custard, citron peel, cinnamon and vanilla, so I’m sorry to say that I can’t show you a photo. They do however, set up a pop-up pâtisserie in the alleyway next to Coffee Branch in the city on Friday mornings only, between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. I may have to set the alarm…just to get a shot for you, bien sûr.