A couple of years ago I sat in a meeting with some of Ashbourne’s traders. They were discussing Ashbourne’s High Street and the opportunity to reinvigorate it. I have heard people criticising the range of shops and also the prices. The traders think this is not only unfair but also inaccurate. I think many people judge the shops and the market from a cursory glance in the windows without necessarily going in and having a look at what is on offer. As a result they often get worse products and poorer value. They are realistic that Ashbourne won’t have everything you need to buy but suggested the slogan “Try Ashbourne First”. We all know the benefits of spending money locally but we may not always realise it makes sense for us personally as well as for our community. To try and illustrate it I thought I’d occasionally dip into some of the local shops and see what’s on offer. I have no affiliation with any retailers and this is not advertising.
My first choice is Fresh Choice. This is a really great greengrocer in the centre of town. What makes a great greengrocer for me is a wide selection of seasonal, local produce and ideally a one stop shop for everything. I’d always buy from the market first if they still had someone selling fruit and veg but otherwise I always shop here. The shop supplies a number of local restaurants so you will be in good company.
The service is always friendly and knowledgable. There is always a great selection of fruit and vegetables and, crucially, lots of locally sourced products. As you go in the door on the right hand side there are always some “when its gone its gone” products. Last week there was a tray of locally grown gooseberries and punnets of blackcurrants. This week there were some locally grown squashes and some local organic tomatoes.
It doesn’t matter what the price is for these – you are not going to find them in the local supermarket veg aisle and if you saw them for sale at a French street market you’d think it was fantastic. To a foodie they are an impulse purchase and you’ll worry about the recipe later.
There is also always a range of potatoes – true of the supermarket too but in the case of Fresh Choice they are local wherever possible. Yes they may need a wash when you get them home but they are often far tastier than the ones you get in the supermarket and fresher too.
In the fruit section they often have fresh figs in season and also the difficult-to-find fruit like cape gooseberries. The counter just before the tills is a favourite of mine. They have a good selection of herbs by the bunch sold by weight and far cheaper than the packets sold in the big stores. They also have punnets of wild mushrooms which are great with pasta sauteed in butter. At the tills they always have cooked beetroot. You either love it or hate it but having it cooked and peeled for you is a great saver. They also sell Pete from the Dining Room’s excellent bread, a range of chutneys and eggs. As a bonus they are also part of the Ashbourne Partnership’s Reward Scheme – for every £100 spent you get a £5 voucher so end up with a 5% discount.
So how do the prices compare? I’ve checked the prices in store today with the Tesco Online website:
Red Onions – Fresh Choice 99p/kg, Tesco 99p/kg
Shallots – Fresh Choice £3.30/kg (loose), Tesco £3.34/kg (bag)
Large Cauliflower – Fresh Choice 99p, Tesco £1.67
Savoy Cabbage – Fresh Choice 99p, Tesco (smaller) 76p
Kiwi Fruit – Fresh Choice 35p, Tesco 30p
The prices are broadly similar but Fresh Choice sources a high proportion of local ingredients, and things you can’t buy in the supermarket. The fact you can choose them yourself with help from knowledgeable friendly staff makes all the difference. There really is no reason to go elsewhere for your fruit and vegetables – put your head round the door and enjoy.