On the trail of Exmoor's tastiest local produce
PUBLISHED: 10:37 16 May 2017
Renowned for its wild beauty, Exmoor has also been earning a reputation for culinary excellence, as Chris Gladstone discovers
One of the oldest businesses in Exmoor is Miles Tea & Coffee Merchants of Porlock. The business was originally started by Henry Miles in 1888 and, in 1971, his grandson Derek relocated operations from Chepstow to Porlock and Minehead.
Today, coffee is still roasted and packed in Porlock, the tea is blended and packed in Minehead, and the large range of products is available all across Exmoor and further afield. The flagship shop in Porlock showcases the full range, including hot chocolate, marshmallows and other gifts.
A Pearl in the Crown
One of the most successful recent ventures in Exmoor has been Porlock Bay Oysters. In the 19th century, oyster farming was a large industry in Porlock, ending in the 1890s when dredgers from the south east coast decided they wanted a slice of the action and stripped the beds clean.
In 2013, a project started to resurrect this industry, aiming to grow and sell oysters in Porlock Bay and, in 2016, the first oysters went on sale. They can often be found on the menus of several restaurants and pubs in the area, with availability dependent on demand. The first Porlock Oyster Festival takes place at Porlock Weir on September 29.
Hand-made chocolates are popular the world over and Nutcombe Chocolates fly the Exmoor flag in this field. Founded in Minehead in 2000, the family¬run business produces a large variety of treats for all occasions and supplies several local outlets. Its main stockist is The Chocolate House in Dunster’s picturesque High Street ,which also operates as a café.
For more samples of sweetness, Grown Up Marshmallows in Luxborough manufacture gourmet marshmallows with a tantalizing array of names such as Banoffee Buzz, Exquisite Elderflower, and Bursting Blueberry. With all marshmallows being naturally fat and gluten free, they are available from the website and also from Stuart Lowen Farm Shop and the weekly Minehead Farmers’ Market.
Fruits of the Moor
As summer approaches, the berries of Exmoor will soon be ready for gathering. In the hills above Exford and close to Dunkery Beacon lies 12 acres of land farmed by Exmoor Blueberries, where you can pick your own organic berries during the months of August to October.
The most iconic fruit of Exmoor is the whortleberry, a cousin of the blueberry, which grows in abundance in the foothills of the moor. Wander through the late summer woodland to gather your own or, if you prefer, try whortleberry jam, produced by Brendon Hill Crafts, which is readily available in many outlets across Exmoor.
Tankards and Tipples
If there was a national drink for Somerset, it would of course be cider. Launched in 2016, Ex-press Cider from Porlock is made purely from local apples and is currently available in bottles from a number of outlets in the North Exmoor area. Increased output is currently being planned, including the cider being available on tap from local pubs.
Nettlecombe is the home of Secret Orchard Cider which is also made only from local apples. Founded in 2013, the products have proved to be extremely popular and can be found in various venues across the area.
Or, for something more unusual, try Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin, handcrafted in Brendon and available now from many pubs and restaurants across Exmoor.
Weir Fest, an annual beer and cider festival, takes place at The Ship Inn, Porlock Weir, from 29 June to 2 July.
The Finest Cuts
For the best local meat to, it’s difficult to beat a good butcher’s shop. One of the most popular stopping-off points in Porlock is Clive Downs Butchers, a top 10 finalist in the national Countryside Alliance Awards 2015 in the Butcher category. On offer is Devon Red beef bred in Porlock, lamb from Cutcombe, local game and Exmoor venison, and you can also pick up a jar of honey made in nearby Allerford.
Stuart Lowen Farm Shop in Minehead also has an extensive meat counter which includes seasonal local game, honey from the area and a variety of other local products.
On the south of Exmoor, Dulverton is home to Farthing’s Farm Shop where a large range of pork products from Kendle Farm in Exton is available to buy, as well as honey from Timberscombe.
The Village Shop & Deli in Dunster High Street is packed with a huge variety of local produce. As well as rare breed Middle White pork sausages from Little Oak Farm in Timberscombe and Secret Orchard Cider from Nettlecombe, you may also find honey from Timberscombe and tempting preserves from The Jam Tart, made in Dunster itself. They also sell flour and other produce from Dunster Water Mill, an 18th century mill lying in the shadow of Dunster Castle and which also has a shop.
On the south of Exmoor, the Dulverton Delicatessen stocks a wonderful array of food and drink, including honey from Exford and rillettes from The Game Chef in Exford. When available, they also have caviar from Exmoor Caviar in west Exmoor, remarkably the only caviar farm in the UK.