Move over baby leaves, the next big thing - except they're not big at all - is micro-leaves. In fact, with just 14 days between sowing and harvesting, they're little more than seedlings whose first leaves have developed. Charles Secrett runs the family business, Secretts Farm, in Milford, Surrey, which specialises in tender garden produce for the restaurant and farm shop markets. He brought along a selection to the conference Market Place, around which delegates were invited to wander during afternoon tea. The micro-leaf products are basically the same as those grown for baby leaf products, which Secretts also grows, and include mizuna, rocket, sorrel, mustard, perilla, Chinese celery, cress and amaranth.
Foraged herbs, leaves and vegetables from Pembrokeshire, including sea purslane and sea beet, were available for tasting courtesy of London-based suppliers TFC Express and Fruits and Roots, together with oyster leaves from northern France - tiny pale green leaves that actually taste like oysters.
Following the magnificent spread of British artisan cheeses at lunch, the Cheese Cellar was on hand to answer questions about the produce, which had proved something of a talking point earlier in the day and was a clear demonstration of the dynamic cheesemaking scene in the British Isles. There were cheeses of various shapes and colours with equally colourful names, such as Stinking Bishop, a soft, pungent and full-flavoured cows' milk cheese washed in perry made by Charles Martell in Gloucestershire in a style similar to the French Vacherin. Its name comes from the type of local pear with which the perry is made.
For a taste of Scotland, Buccleuch Foods circulated platters of its beef from grass-fed cattle with fully traceable heritage, traditionally matured for 21 days for rich colour and tenderness. Naturally Best demonstrated the versatility of Vivaldi potatoes, while chef and broadcaster Alan Coxon presented his Historic range of vinegars, including Ale-Gar, a rich concoction with hints of chocolate, cinnamon and roasted malt, which he suggests using as an alternative to balsamic.
Representing UK Skills, the non-profit organisation that champions skills and learning through competition and awards, pastry team training manager Yolande Stanley and competitor Will Torrent treated delegates to a demonstration of sugar techniques. Premier Foods aimed to cater for the sweet-toothed with mini-tartlets and profiteroles.
|###### Alan Coxon's Historic range (top), Buccleuch Foods (above) and Secretts Farm (right) were all on show|