Vegetarian fairs and festivals 2013

If you’re starting to think about where you might go on your holidays this year, why not plan a trip to some of these veggie fairs and festivals, which are taking place all over the UK throughout 2013.

March

March 16 – 17. Brighton VegFest is back and it’s bigger and better than ever. Expect to find more than 120 stalls spread across three floors. There will be cookery classes, live music, free nutritional advice and even speed dating.

March 23. Evesham Vegan Fair looks set to be a much smaller and more intimate affair. Organised by Midlands Vegan Campaigns, the fair will offer 20 stalls with vegan cosmetics, recipe books and Easter eggs, as well as cookery demos and talks.

April

April 13. Northern Vegan Festival will take place in Manchester on April 13. Visitors will find 90 vegan stalls, selling vegan chocolate, clothing and gifts, as well as children’s activities, films and a talk on eating out in the north of England.

Vegan cupcake stall

Vegan cupcake stall

May

May 24 – 25. VegFestUK will return to Bristol for its 10th anniversary. More than 120 stalls will celebrate every aspect of a vegan lifestyle, from food to fashion. There will also be live music, films and entertainment.

August

August 3 – 17. Vegan Camp has been running in Cornwall for 32 years. Individuals, couples and families are invited to visit for a day or stay for the full two weeks. Communal meals, camp fires and picnics make this a unique event.

October

October 5 – 6. The dates have been confirmed for a huge new show in London at the world-famous Kensington Olympia. VegFest London will offer comedy and music, alongside all the essential stalls and demonstrations.

December

December 8. You may not be thinking about Christmas just yet, but the Christmas Vegan Fayre in London’s Kensington Town Hall is a definite date for the diary. Organised by Animal Aid, the event will showcase everything you need for perfect meat-free festivities.

Photo: Binary Ape

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Vegan Wines Online

Grape vine

Grape vine

Sitting down with a nice glass of wine at the end of a long, hard day can be an excellent way to unwind, but unfortunately, trying to find a wine that is suitable for vegetarians can be a difficult and stressful experience.

Luckily, new company Vegan Wines Online aims to make the whole process much easier. The site is dedicated to stocking wines that are free from animal products, and also aims to provide useful information for vegetarian and vegan wine consumers.

Nigel Oldham said he was shocked by the lack of vegan wines available. “We were inspired to set up the site when we realised just how poorly the vegan community is served,” he said.

He added many vegans did not realise wine contained animal products. “Most people think wine is fermented grape juice and they are horrified when they realise the majority of bottles contain ingredients such as gelatin, fish guts and egg whites,” he said.

The site stocks about 100 wines, which are vegan, organic and low in sulphur. For more information, visit Vegan Wines Online or follow @VeganWines.

Related posts: Vegetarian wines, Vegetarian ciders.

Photo: tribp

Foraging for food

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I had a great time picking blackberries last weekend, and it got me thinking about why we don’t turn to our hedgerows and woodlands for food more often. For most of us, a trip to the greengrocer’s is about as exciting as it gets, but maybe it’s time to get adventurous.

That said, this post does carry a health warning. It’s all too easy to mistake a poisonous fungus for an innocent field mushroom, but with a bit of common sense, foraging is a great way to get out into the countryside and re-establish that connection with nature.

Wild garlic

Wild garlic is abundant in the UK and is highly versatile. The plant is easily identifiable in woodlands, as it forms lush green carpets near to patches of bluebells and emits a distinctive garlic scent. It tastes much like cultivated cloves, but has a milder flavour.

The leaves can be used to spice up salads and stir frys and can also be used to flavour soups and stews. Wild garlic has many health benefits, including reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms grow across most of the UK, with parks and woodlands providing a good place to start looking. We have a huge diversity of native species, but autumn is prime mushroom-picking season, as this is when most edible varieties appear.

Wild Mushrooms Online has some great tips for fungi foraging. Once you’ve identified and collected your mushrooms, you’ll be spoilt for choice for things to do with them: grill them, stuff them, put them in soups or pies, or fry them with wild garlic and parsley.

Woodland

Woodland

Elder

Elder is commonly found in hedgerows and woods. The bushes are  covered in sweet-smelling flowers by the end of June, followed by berries between August and October. The flowers and berries are sweet and aromatic, but the stems and leaves are poisonous.

The fragrant blooms can be eaten raw, cooked or dried and can be added to cordials, jellies and jams, as well as ice cream, cakes and biscuits. The flowers can be eaten straight from the tree. Visit the Sacred Earth site for more recipe ideas.

Nettles

Although painful stings have taught us to avoid nettles, they are actually a very healthy and versatile plant. You can protect your hands with a decent pair of gardening gloves and boiling the leaves will get rid of the sting.

Nettles are packed with vitamins and minerals and, believe it or not, contain more vitamin C than oranges. They should be harvested before the flowers appear in early spring and only the youngest leaves should be collected. Use them to make tea, soup and even beer.

Dandelions

The old wives’ tale may tell us that dandelions make you wet the bed, but in fact, they are healthy and freely available throughout the UK for most of the year. The whole plant can be eaten, from flower to root.

The leaves can be added to salads, while the flowers, which are in bloom between February and November, can be used in anything from risotto to omelets. The roots can also be dried to make dandelion coffee, which has a hint of chocolate.

Just one final word of warning. Don’t forget to check whether the land you’re planning to forage on is public and remember to get permission if it isn’t. Always remember the countryside code and don’t over-harvest. Have fun!

Photos: kh1234567890, colros, markpeate, Sir_Iwan, Anja Jonsson, Mark ac photos

Vegetarian restaurants in Cardiff

I’ve been living in Cardiff for nearly a year now and after reviewing plenty of vegetarian restaurants, bars and cafés, I thought it would be helpful to compile a map of the best places for veggies and vegans to eat out in the Welsh capital.

Chapter Arts Centre

Lovely light and airy café-bar, with a sunny courtyard for summer evenings. Wide range of veggie and vegan dishes available, all made with fresh and local produce. They do a particularly tasty vegetarian breakfast.

Madhav

Cosy Indian café and takeaway located five minutes away from Millennium Stadium. All dishes are vegetarian and can be adapted for vegans. They do a good selection of freshly-made Indian sweets.

Milgi

Quirky kitchen, lounge and gallery in Cathays, complete with its own yurt in the garden. All dishes are vegetarian, by popular demand. Most dishes can also be adapted for vegans. Don’t miss out on the vegetarian Sunday lunch.

Riverside Market

An integral part of Cardiff life, the Riverside Market takes place on the banks of the Taff every Sunday morning, from 10am until 2pm. There are plenty of vegetarian stalls, including Frantastic Crepes and the Parsnipship.

Vegetarian Food Studio

Vegetarian heaven! Small and cosy vegetarian café, which offers an almost overwhelming selection of Indian and Oriental dishes. Vegetarian Food Studio has won many awards, including Vegetarian Society Best Restaurant and the Guardian Food Award.

For comprehensive listings, visit the Eat Out Vegan Wales site.

Riverside Community Market Association

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Riverside market has, for many, become an integral part of Cardiff life. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than enjoying a leisurely coffee on the Fitzhamon Embankment?

But with recent reports that fruit and vegetable consumption by low-income families has fallen by 30 per cent, how is the Riverside Community Market Association (RCMA) coping with current financial and commercial pressures?

Preconceptions

Gareth Simpson, Enterprise Development Manager for the RCMA, said: “People have a lot of preconceptions about our markets. Many think it’s beyond their means, but actually, buying fresh produce directly from the traders can be cheaper than going to a supermarket.”

He added: “It’s never been about trying to get people to do their weekly shop at the market, but if more people thought about buying some of their fruit and vegetables from our stall holders on a regular basis, it would make a whole world of difference.”

Social enterprise

Although Gareth has only been working for the RCMA since last May, the social enterprise has been running since 1998, when the Riverside Real Food Market was first launched. Since then, the project has expanded, and now runs farmers’ markets in Llandaff North, Rhiwbina and Roath, as well as co-ordinating the Riverside community allotment and a variety of outreach projects.

Gareth said: “The aim is to bring the countryside to the city. Many people have never had the chance to grow their own vegetables and we are trying to spread the message of growing in a fun way. The community allotment allows people to get their hands in the mud and really get involved.”

Weather dependent

However, as with all outdoor events, the markets are highly weather dependent.  Gareth said: “Footfall suffers in the driving rain.” At present, there is little shelter at the market, but he is hoping to introduce a covered area for live music.

“I always try to create a buzz at the markets,” he said. “It’s not about just filling your shopping bag, it’s very much a social event.” Recently, Gareth created a buskers’ corner at Riverside Market, which gives local musicians the chance to show off their talent and entertain the crowd.

Innovative

The RCMA also tries to bring a wide variety of products to the markets. Gareth said: “We avoid putting similar stalls together, so new products have to be quite innovative. We don’t like to turn people away, but sometime we have to. A little competition can be a good thing.”

Two new stalls have recently joined the Riverside market. Greens of Glastonbury is a traditional farmhouse cheesemaker, while cnwd is based near Carmarthen and produces patés and terrines.

For more information, visit the RCMA website.

Veggie fairs and festivals 2012

It’s shaping up to be a great year for veggie fairs and festivals. With exciting stalls, fantastic demonstrations and a whole range of freebies on offer, don’t miss out! Here’s thegreenveggie’s pick of the best…

February

Kicking off on February 4, we start with The Viva! Incredible Veggie Show in Cambridge. Whether you’re thinking of turning veggie or have been vegan your whole life, this show will have something for you. Be inspired by cookery demonstrations, sample some tasty morsels and discover a myriad of stalls. What’s more, it won’t cost you a penny.

Then prepare to get loved up in Croydon for the Veggie Valentine Fair on February 11. Offering a wide range of vegan and Fairtrade beauty, health and wellbeing gifts, this will be the perfect place to find a thoughtful gift for your valentine. Plus, all profits will go to Animal Aid and Macmillan Cancer Care.

March

Why not head to sunny Brighton in March for the two-day extravaganza that is Brighton VegFest. Taking place from March 17 – 18, this festival is a celebration of all things vegan. Stalls, campaign groups, info, demonstrations, performances, passion and positive energy – find it all here (with some freebies to boot!) We’re particularly intrigued by the Great Sausage Tasting Competition…

Food fair

Food fair

May

Make tracks to Lancaster for the West Lancashire Vegan Fair on May 12. The event promises to be bigger and better than ever, with plenty of stalls, talks, films, free samples and live music.

Then get ready for National Vegetarian Week – the biggest veggie event of the year. The event will kick off with Meat Free in Manchester and will run from May 21 – 27. National Vegetarian Week is the UK’s annual awareness-raising campaign, promoting yummy vegetarian cooking and the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.

Vegetarian Week will reach Cardiff on May 21, with the Cardiff Vegetarian Festival. This festival is returning for its third year and promises an enticing line-up of caterers and entertainment. They’re recruiting volunteers now, so if you’re a musician or photographer, or just want to be part of things on the day, get in touch pronto.

And then, prepare for The Return of the VegFest, with Bristol VegFest, which runs from May 25 – 27. So for all those herbivores who missed out in Brighton, make a beeline for Bristol and get in on the action! We can’t wait for the Ready Steady Cook competition. That and the crazy golf…!

So that’s it for now, but events are being announced all the time, so watch this space!

If you’re holding a veggie event that you would like to see featured on the site, please email: thegreenveggie@gmail.com or tweet: @thegreenveggie.

video: viva! Incredible veggie roadshow, photo: Lee McCoy

Welsh honey

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

It was during a rather hung over secret santa that I found out about local beekeeping collective, Nature’s Little Helpers. Among the polite smiles and baffled looks, I was genuinely pleased with my present.

And what had the triumphant secret santa produced, you may be wondering. Well, santa had taken himself off to the farmers’ market and found a honey lip balm, made from local beeswax. (And within the £5 price limit, I might add!)

Honey bees

Nature’s Little Helpers was started by three friends, Tim Wright, Pete Shaw and Nigel Harris, on an allotment site in Cardiff, five years ago. The website says: “The company was set up as a result of many cups of tea and conversations around a picnic bench on our allotment.”

Mr Harris said: “We love growing our own veg and have ventured out into other things, such as keeping honey bees, producing honey, handmade candles and also skin care products from our own beeswax and honey.”

He added: “Bees have been having a hard time of things over the past few years, so we intend to give them as much help as possible, by increasing their numbers and providing people with products from these wonderful insects.”

Endangered species

In fact, according to the Bee Part Of It Campaign, honey bees are worth around £200m a year to British agriculture. However, poor summers have caused enormous damage to bees and a third of all colonies were lost in 2008.

Figures show that there are 250 species of bee in the UK, and most of these are in decline. According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, two species have become extinct in the last 70 years, and more are seriously threatened.

Mr Harris said: “The idea of helping Mother Nature appealed to us. We have gone from two hives to 80 and our plans are to expand to eventually have around 400 hives in the South Wales area.”

Natural

I can certainly recommend the lip balm. It smells sweet and natural, and doesn’t suffer from that overpowering chemical smell that so many skin care products have today. The wax is quite hard, but can easily be applied to the lips and has made my skin wonderfully soft.

To find out more, take a look at the Nature’s Little Helpers website.

Photo: John Sargent