There was a time when much of the moss land either side of the Ribble Estuary was given over to market gardening. As a boy, I remember all the greenhouses and fields of crops on Marton Moss near Blackpool. Much of that has gone now, sadly, save for some tomato production.
To the south of the Ribble Estuary, in the area between Penwortham and Southport, the tradition is surviving better, and it is here that Wareing's of Tarleton are based.
I first came across Wareing's at the excellent Hoghton Tower farmers' market, but they attend many markets in the north west, including the new Longridge farmers' market.
For some time, I've moaned that many farmers' markets are dominated not by farmers, but by value-added products (too many sausages and cupcakes!). That's not to denigrate the livestock farms, but stalls like Wareing's are what are needed to balance what's on offer. If high streets, markets and farmers' markets (separately and together) cannot provide a full range of food, then supermarkets are going to win.
So, enough ranting. What do Wareing's do? Well, they are a family firm, established over 100 years ago, with a mixed market garden producing a wide range of fruit and mainly vegetables. The range of produce is excellent and amazing. The first time I came across them, I made the mistake of asking if the lettuces and some other produce was their own. "Everything here is grown by us." I was proudly told. It was also very evident that much of it was freshly dug too.
Their onions are the freshest, juiciest onions I've come across, and it was a real surprise to see them selling garlic too. Garlic, grown between Southport and Preston! There isn't any reason why it shouldn't be grown, but as far as I'm aware, Wareing's are the only ones doing so commercially. It's clear garlic production is on a relatively small scale, as the bulbs on sale have not been cleaned and processed the same way as the imported garlic you'll find everywhere. But it's very fairly priced and has a really good flavour, without being bitter, which was the problem the one time I tried growing my own.
Carrots (orange and purple) are great, and again the freshness shines through. The same goes for chard, lettuce, celery, leeks etc that I've tried. It's nice to see things like purple kale and purple sprouts, alongside their more familiar green cousins.
Do look out for them at farmers' markets. They're just what we need.