Despite being in the midst of gale force winds courtesy of Storm Betty, everybody has a smile on their faces when I visit the Manx Foodie Market. It’s that sort of event.
The market is held every fortnight, with some of the stalls outdoors on Douglas North Quay and some inside in St Matthew’s Church Hall.
Organiser James Quayle tells me: ‘It’s going well. All our traders are loving it. We’re hoping next year in the spring we’ll move to holding it every week.’
It is very much a community event, for people who want to support local food products and producers and buy great food with very low food miles.
A good example is the Thrive Farm stall which is the place to go for freshly harvested vegetables that taste exactly as they should. I buy some tomatoes from their stall which have that wonderful slightly tangy taste that characterises how a tomato flavour ought to be.
Thrive is a community farm where much of the work is done by volunteers. They have taken over land belonging to Robert and Dot Price who were a familiar sight at the Isle of Man Farmers’ Markets.
The Prices kept chickens and grew produce organically and Manx Thrive Society committee member, Janet Bridle says that the Thrive growers have benefited greatly from the Prices’ ‘fantastic expertise and advice’.
Thrive Farm has around 15 regular volunteer helpers at the moment and Janet explains: ‘People come up to the farm and do a minimum of three hours, sowing, weeding, picking and harvesting. They are also learning how to grow produce and it’s a beautiful environment to work in.
‘We’d be very happy to have more people. There’s always something that needs weeding or harvesting. It’s a lovely arrangement and the more people that get involved the better.’
Janet adds that they have found the Manx Foodie Market an ideal platform for marketing their food and their ethos.
She said: ‘We have been coming to the Foodie Market since it started. We sell a lot of stuff here and it’s a great way of spreading the word about the community farm. It’s all Manx grown and it’s all organic.’
Nina Cooper, on the stall next door, is selling the chocolates she makes – and these are not just any old chocolates.
Freshly made in a variety of flavours, from pure Belgian chocolate, it’s all gluten-free and the dark chocolate is vegan.
I try one of the watermelon flavoured dark chocolates and they have an unusual richness and a wonderful flavour.
Nina says: ‘I’ve brought along just four flavours today but I have more than 50 flavours I can do. I make the chocolates to order and you choose exactly what you want.
Based in Ballaugh, Nina has been in business for four years. Last year she took her chocolates to the Isle of Man Food & Drink Festival. ‘I sold over 100 kgs of chocolates in two days,’ she tells me.
Nina explains that the chocolates will keep for seven days in the fridge and can be frozen.
But she smiles as she adds: ‘Chocolate is not bought to be kept, it’s bought to be eaten.’
Green Goodness is a small start up run by Seth Worthington which sells microgreens.
‘It’s a bit of a passion project for me at the moment,’ he says.
These tiny little plants are packed with flavour and nutrients. The broccoli microgreen, for example, apparently has up to 40 times as much nutrient value as the adult plant.
It’s a great crop to grow, ready so quickly and not in any way weather dependent as it’s all grown hydroponically, indoors under lights.
The amaranth takes 14 days to grow whilst the broccoli and radish takes just 10 days. I try the spring onion microgreen and it’s a real flavour hit, strong and onion-y: ‘Chefs like to add it to dishes because it gives so much flavour,’ Seth says.
One of the reasons for taking your products to a market like this one is not just about selling them – it’s also about raising your profile.
A point which was brought home forcefully to William Caley of Isle of Man Seafood.
He says: ‘We have been going for 25 years and we’re one of the largest exporters on the island but it’s quite shocking how many people think we’re a new company.’
IoM Seafood is very much a family affair – there are three generations of the Caley family helping on their stall. They have a deep fryer set up on their stall and they are selling freshly made hot breaded queenies at £5 a portion for a tasty snack.
They also have on the stall Manx crab, white and mixed, queen scallops and prawns, smoked mackerel, peppered mackerel, salmon fillets, smoked haddock, kippers and large and small seafood platters and there is a plan to bring fresh lobster in the future.
The inside market area has yet more interesting discoveries and some old favourites.
Manx Gourmet Mushrooms sell wonderful, full flavoured mushrooms and recipe leaflets so you can use them in the best way possible.
Red Mie has a stunning display of the chillies they sell, in all shapes and sizes, all grown in their polytunnel in Ballaugh. Noa Bakery is there too and there are also beekeepers, cake makers and Kionslieu Relishes from Foxdale.
Another stall is selling Ukrainian hot food to mark the upcoming Ukraine independence Day: beetroot soup with sour cream, savoury crepes filled with beef and potatoes, and deep fried piroshki.
Manx Foodie market is on again this Saturday (September 2). It’s definitely worth a visit.