The Food and Drink of the West Country – Part 1

The West Country is home to a huge and successful agricultural community. This has resulted in fantastic produce that is made available each year for the large numbers of restaurants to use and some of the finest restaurants in the county are located in the region. There are certain foods and drinks that have become part of the regions culture.

The produce is also enhanced by the fact that the area has a huge coastline and there are vast varieties of fish that are eaten by both locals and visitors. The West Country has a rural population and its people feel at home with nature. This has also produced a market for vegan and vegetarian dishes, with scavenging the natural landscape for food becoming increasingly important.

Many of the county towns in the West Country grew as a result of having major markets. The weekly meetings would give the local farmers the opportunities to both buy and sell goods and although they are not as important today as they once were, they can still be found in many settlements and they are one of the best way to view local produce.

In a way markets have been replaced by local farm shops. These shops are no longer a case of simple stall selling off basic farm produce. They have developed into well organized and professional outlets. The foods are beautifully presented and they do not come cheap. It is better value to buy directly from the supermarkets than the farm shops.

Rumwell’s Farm Shop, Taunton

Rumwell Farm Shop is found just outside of Taunton in Somerset. As well as having a farm shop that sells all of the produce that it has grown on its own, and other neighboring farms, it also has a thriving restaurant. One again making the most of locally sourced goods, the dining area is popular and is regularly packed out.

Just one mile down the road from the shop is Sheppy’s Cider Farm Shop. As its name suggests it specializes in selling cider and has a tradition of producing the beverage, that has been going on for over 200 years.

The West Country and Somerset in particular is famed for its annual production of cider. Thatchers and Taunton Cider have emanated from the county, and many farms produce thriving orchards that are harvested each year in order to provide apples for the cider industry.

The vast majority of the apples go to the major brewers yet still many farms in the Country brew and sell their own cider. It is known as “scrumpy” and is renowned for both its flat sour taste, and the strength of its content.

The traditional way of buying it is to go into the farmer’s barn where there will be two large kegs, one containing dry cider and one of sweet cider. The farmer will then mix the cider to the purchasers required taste. As well as the climate being perfect for the growing of apples it is perfect for the growing of grass for nine months of the year. The maritime climate of the region means that the temperatures are high enough, and there is also regular and plentiful rainfall, for rich grass to grow.

This has produced a successful dairy farming community in the region. Dairy farmers have the advantage that they receive a regular income for their production of milk. Most of the milk that is produced is the sold to the major distributors who then treat the milk and put it on the market.

Devon’s very own rice pudding

Some of the milk is stored and the turned into different products. The layer of the top of stored milk is often taken away and this forms cream. The most popular varieties of cream are single and double, with the double cream having a higher fat content and being thicker than the single variety.

Ambrosia Rice Pudding has been made in the Devon village of Lifton since 1917. It is famed for its creamy texture and despite being bought out by The Premier Foods Company, the dessert is still being produced in modernized premises in Lifton.