In the bleak mid-winter

It’s that time of year; very wet, damp, cold, muddy, dark and everything else unpleasant.

The plants in the pots my friend at Tom and Jo’s in Wylam made for me continue to bloom and grow against the odds. I’m not quite sure how, and as far as gardening is concerned I can barely muster the enthusiasm to rake up the leaves. 

I recently had a conversation with friends about veganuary and there ensued a debate on what is the best way to eat for us and for the environment. 

The best option, we decided, is to forage. It’s low impact, it’s exercise, you only pick what you’re going to eat that day, and there are new dandelion leaves pushing up through the winter debris which are good for a salad and bigger ones good as a veg. They’re also good for cleansing your liver (it’s New Year’s Day as I write this). Roll on nettle season too, as they’re so versatile and delicious. 

Next best (in my opinion) is to eat local. It helps our local economy and the produce around here is generally slower grown. I like the idea of money going straight back to small producers, and where else but with them can you chat about the feed the animals are raised on? You can also trace the sustainability of everything around here. There are the locally raised chickens at Hexham Farmers’ Market, local seasonal ingredients from stands such as the organic veg stall, and local bread from the market or daily from The Grateful Bread bakery on Market Street.  

I like to poach a whole chicken with onion, celery, bay and carrot for about an hour and a half, or when the meat is coming away from the leg bones. Then you just remove the meat (carefully), put the bones back in a pan and simmer. The stock you get is a magic ingredient for restoring your soul, your gut health, and your immune system. My other half and my 13-year-old daughter have been a bit run down post-Covid and the chicken stock has really helped.

I’m going to eat less meat in January and stick to local produce. This, and a bit of self care, is my means of surviving  the darkest of Northumbrian months of January and February. See you again as the days get longer. 

Vicky Moffitt, of Vallum Farm on Hadrian’s Wall, shares the trials and tribulations of the Kitchen Garden which supplies produce to the farm’s weddings and events venue. Vallum, Military Road, Newcastle, NE18 0LL, tel 01434 672 652,

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