If it’s your first visit to the Barossa Farmers Market, you know you’re getting close by the long line of parked cars along the roadside as you approach the old Vintners Shed just outside Angaston. On a cold and drizzly Saturday morning following a very wet Friday, you could be forgiven for expecting the weekly market to be a bit quieter than usual. This was far from the case when we arrived last Saturday morning. With only an hour to go until closing time, the goods were flying off the shelves and there was action aplenty.
Last Saturday of course was the day before Mothers’ Day which possibly accounted for all those smaller shoppers eager to get their hands on provisions for Mum’s brekkie in bed, or maybe just a bunch of roses to go with her strawberries and cream. But otherwise this was just a normal Saturday morning’s trade at one of South Australia’s busiest and most popular regional farmers markets.
Established in 2002 by Angela Clifford, and officially opened in February 2003 by Maggie Beer, the market has been going strong ever since. It’s open every Saturday from 7.30am to 11.30am in the aforesaid shed on the corner of Angaston and Stockwell Roads. If you’re keen to snap up the pick of the bunches, or loaves, or haunches or whatever, you’d be well advised to get there bright and early and I’m told on some occasions a queue forms outside the door by 7.15am. Everyone knows the Barossa’s reputation for wine but the region is equally renowned for its food, especially stone fruit, citrus, meats, poultry, vegetables, breads, cheese and smallgoods, and here is where you can find the very best on offer all in one place.
What’s brilliant about farmers markets (as I keep telling anyone who’ll listen) is that you’re buying locally produced food direct from those who make it. Not only can you feel secure about where it comes from and what’s in it, but it’s a great way to show your support for the local community. It may not always be the cheapest option but you can be pretty certain it’s the freshest and tastiest. And where food’s concerned quality has to be the number one priority, especially if you’re feeding a growing family.
From a small beginning with only 16 stallholders and a handful of shoppers, the market today plays host to about 50 stallholders and hundreds of eager buyers. Reincarnated from what was a local winemakers co-op in the 1970s, the shed is a corrugated iron structure of rustic charm. Judging from the buzz of constant chatter, the place is as much a hot-bed of local gossip as it is of produce. It’s also a great attraction for the many tourists that visit the Barossa and the stallholders are no slouches when it comes to making them feel welcome also. You don’t have to stand in line to be drawn into a conversation about whatever it is you’re casting an interested eye over and anything you might want to know about what’s on offer is happily explained.
To help make getting up early on Saturdays more palatable, the coffee stall also does a roaring trade in bacon and egg rolls. Smoked Barossa Heritage Free Range Pork bacon, farm fresh free range eggs, caramelised onions and fragrant baby spinach, topped with local chutneys or sauces and sandwiched inside a warm bun is enough to ignite the foggiest morning head. This alone is worth coming for and not surprisingly there’s a constant stream of ravenous brekkie eaters from opening to closing time. For the health conscious or those with less robust appetites there are gluten free and Baby Burger options.
A great endorsement of the quality of the goods on sale is that many of the growing number of top class restaurants in the area depend on the market to stock their kitchens. Innovative and world class cuisine is being served up all over the Barossa these days and restaurants such as Appellation at The Louise and Hentley Farm are among Australia’s best. Great cooking of course relies on the freshest and most wholesome ingredients and you only have to look at the range on display here to get the creative (and digestive) juices flowing.
I would have loved to try everything but time was running out so I had to focus. Being constitutionally incapable of resisting nuts in any shape or form I was instantly drawn to the attractive display of almonds at the Barossa Soul Kitchen stall. These are no ordinary almonds. They’ve been ‘activated’ (much as sluggish brains by the egg and bacon rolls). This is a process where the almonds (not the brains) are soaked in water for around 12 hours to deactivate the enzyme inhibitors, then dehydrated at low temperatures over 24 hours, resulting in nuts with an almost roasted flavour and texture. It’s thought that this soaking and drying process renders them more nutritious than nuts processed in the traditional manner. As they’re also promoted as “brain food”, I should have laid in a bulk supply, however I only bought one packet (can always go back). There was a variety of delicious flavours, as well as almond crackers which were equally delicious and made it into the shopping bag. For more information about the activated nuts or any of the Barossa Soul Kitchen’s other healthy goodies, Melanie Keynes of Moculta is the guiding hand behind the enterprise.
Situated right next to the almonds was a display of bottles and a friendly looking chap who was keen to tell me all about what they contained. The bloke was Wayne Ahrens and what he offered me to taste was Verjuice made from the certified organic and biodynamic estate fruit from his winery, Smallfry Wines. It was light and flavoursome with a slight tang and although I’ve used verjuice in cooking, I’d never tried it as a drink with soda water which is what Wayne recommended. He said it’s a great refresher, especially on a hot day. I didn’t know much about verjuice at all, come to think of it, other than that it’s a byproduct of wine production. It’s actually an ancient cooking ingredient made from fruit harvested just after the beginning of ripening (when the grapes start to change colour) – described as veraison – hence the name. At that time the sugar is low but the acidity is high. It’s a very pale green in colour, with a slight citrusy aroma, and according to Wayne its uses in cooking are limited only by your imagination. Smallfry specialises in handcrafted, organic wines which partner perfectly with food. Their grapes come from two Barossa Valley vineyards at Eden Valley and Vine Vale.
Another taste treat I couldn’t resist sampling was Hilgah Honey. Hilgah is a family owned business located in Freeling. They collect the honey from all over South Australia then process, bottle and sell it. As Hilgah Honey isn’t subjected to heat processing, the natural health properties of the food are better preserved. Not only is it better for you, with a range of 11 flavours, including chocolate, it tastes irresistible.
With closing time rapidly approaching and stallholders beginning to pack up, I started to make my way towards the exit. Halfway there my eye was caught by a dapper looking man kitted out in a smart red jacket and matching cap, standing behind an equally eye catching display of bottles. The bottles contained Barossa Balsamico and Vino Cotto, made by the Domain Day winery from Mt Crawford. The wines are described as “seriously good cool climate wines” and are produced by Robin Day, a man with impressive credentials in the wine making industry in Australia and many other wine producing countries around the world. I haven’t tried his wines as yet but if they’re as good as his Barossa Balsamico and Vino Cotto they must be excellent. Thanks to my usual exuberance in the wallet opening department, I was by then running out of cash so could only scrape together enough to buy a bottle of the Vino Cotto which is a small taste of heaven – rich, fruity, chocolatey and caramel all rolled into one. It would transform anything I imagine into something far superior to the sum of its parts, but according to the recipe sheet I picked up, goes very well in a stir fry or dipping sauce. I’ll be back another day for some of Robin’s Barossa Balsamico.
Barossa, be consumed
If you need any further motivation to start planning your next trip, check out the amazing Barossa promotional video “Barossa Be Consumed”.
by Anne Green