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November pearsMarket veg NovemberAdeline Farm tour

Cotswolds local and seasonal food - November 2016

November - with uncanny witchery in its changed trees... with dear days when the austere woods were beautiful and gracious in a dignified serenity of folded hands and closed eyes...days when an exquisite melancholy seemed to hang over the landscape.”*

Serenity and exquisite melancholy are a perfect way of describing some of the peaceful late October days in the run up to this month. The focus for wildlife has changed – summer visitors have already embarked on their migratory journeys, whilst others, anticipating a sharp fall in temperature, seek out a refuge for their impending hibernation. Rookeries are noisily reinforced and flocks of smaller birds fly en masse to woodland roosts. Trees delight our visual senses when they shed their kaleidoscope of leaves after reabsorbing the nutrients for storage in their roots. And many local birdlovers are now waiting eagerly to count the numbers of Bewick swans who return from the freezing conditions of the Russian tundra to winter in the Severn Estuary and at Slimbridge WWT. *LM Montgomery

One of the best mornings of the week for us is our trip to the Saturday Stroud Farmers' market where we load up The Priory Inn van with: seasonal vegetables and fruit; cheese from our network of 30 mile suppliers; trays of Melkirt Farm mushrooms; charcuterie from the Monmouthshire artisans; and apple juice and honey harvested from the ancient Gloucestershire orchards at Days Cottage. A mild Saturday morning at this bumper time of year brings hoards of shoppers with their wheely trolleys sending out sociable queues from the best stalls. One of those stallholders (who doesn't often do business with restaurants as he sells out every week to discerning Stroud shoppers) is Jim from Hotchpotch Organics. Jim is described online as “Peasant extraordinaire - likes nothing better than resting on his hoe and surveying his brassica patch - proud cauli grower and a whirling dervish behind the market stall”. His vegetables are organically grown from seed, fertilised from grazed clover, irrigated from the sky and helped along if necessary with a minimum of fossil fuels. A combination of his farming methods, being picked at their peak, alongside Jim's enthusiasm and knowledge results in a taste sensation with all of his produce.

Whilst buying vegetables for ourselves at home, Jim has introduced us to spigariello. This has become a key part of our seasonal vegetable offering in the restaurant and on some special pizzas. Native to Southern Italy, chefs from Napoli would immediately recognise the iconic, leafy-green heirloom variety. Its is considered to be the parent of broccoli rabe, with white flowers and a sweet but slightly peppery taste. The leaves are edible and the stems also delicious when sauteed or lightly steamed. It continues to grow after the more sensitive broccoli has finished, is slightly frost resistant and will produce multiple harvests per plant. The main growing area outside of Italy is Southern California where it is the new trendy green veg and soght after by chefs in many restaurants. Jim is clearly leading the way in Gloucestershire and we are happy to join his journey!

The many varieties of squash are also now in their most bountiful season and we are introducing them into Specials and combining them with beetroot for the lunchtime focaccia. Tomatoes have had an unusually extended season and are still thriving in our vegetable suppliers' polytunnels. Brassicas are coming into their own (sometimes referred to as crucifers or cole crops from the Latin 'caulis', denoting the stem or stalk). This large category of vegetables includes those whose leaves (cabbage), flowers (cauliflowers), stems (kohlrabi) and roots (turnips) are eaten. Paget's Farm sells us all sorts of varieties of cauliflower – purple, orange, green and romanescu. And for the mathmeticians amongst you, cauliflowers are apparently noted for their fractal dimension where every branch or 'module' is similar to the entire cauliflower (!)

Planning for the seasons ahead is a major part of any farmer's calendar and none moreso than Ros Holland at Adeline Farm on The Fosse Way. Ros is the brain and hard grafter behind this fabulous project and she single-handedly grows fruits and vegetables to sell to local businesses via Sherston Market and a local veg box scheme. This income, supplemented by allotments, allows her to fund the charitable side of the business: delivering valuable educational and therapeutic visits for local schools, disadvantaged and disabled groups.

One of our aims as a business is to ensure that our front-of-house and kitchen staff understand all about our family of local suppliers by taking them to farms, breweries and cheesemakers etc. We are inevitably treated to a tour of each facility, which enhances everyone's understanding of who and what is behind the products and creates a great connection to what our staff cook and serve. Early in October we visited Ros at Adeline Farm to understand more about what goes on there. The overwhelming impression we are always left with relates to Ros' boundless energy, tireless enthusiasm and ability to somehow tie so many conflicting elements together. She works in complete harmony with nature: farming without pesticides; developing her own non-chemical fertilisers (from comfrey); and, growing everything from seed. She integrates visits from groups around this work, finding suitable tasks for them to perform, as dictated by their disabilities. Reducing the impact on her crops of hungry and destructive wildlife is a constant struggle, made tougher by her love for animals. Ros has tried and tested methods of re-locating pernicious visitors to alternative habitats, and masses of heart-warming rescue stories relating to birds, hedgehogs, pheasants and rabbits. Ros sells us diverse and delicious salad leaves for both The Priory Inn and Stargazy Fish Bar and whenever possible we take advantage of her high quality broad beans, tomatoes, brassicas and the other diverse vegetables she tends throughout the year.

Live Sunday music is an integral part of The Priory Inn's product and starts every week at 8pm - entry is free. On the 6th November, Blind River Scare's Tim Manning plays original Americana, roots and country-tinged songs. He is followed on the 13th by Steve Page, a consummate guitarist and clawhammer banjo player. Chris Webb plays folkish fingerstyle originals on the 20th and Dik Cadbury rounds out November on the 27th with a selection of his favourite covers and original material on 6- and 12-string acoustic guitars.

November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.” Emily Dickinson