If you have been a regular visitor to the Maidenhead market since August, it will have been impossible to miss newcomer Jemimah Baird’s colourful stall displaying homegrown flowers.
There have been pastel-coloured bunches of sweet peas, scented roses in varying shades of pink and vibrant dahlias.
She originally dug her High Wycombe garden with the intention of staring a vegetable patch, but when wild flowers began to grow last spring, she decided to nurture them instead.
She said: “When I was little, I started planting tulips with my grandmother. Making the connection between planting bulbs and seeing them grow into flowers has stayed with me ever since.”
This personal connection, combined with the rising interest in buying British-grown, local produce, inspired Jemimah to start selling her flowers at Beaconsfield Old Town Market in 2015.
She named her business after the childhood nicknames given to her and her sister by their parents.
“When I first started out, Diane Harker – who manages both the Maidenhead and Beaconsfield markets with the Thames Valley Farmers’ Market Co-operative – mentioned there was nobody doing what I do and suggested I tried out the Maidenhead market. Maidenhead is pretty local to me and not too far a drive," she said.
“I’ve found that Maidenhead customers are very interested in local and seasonal produce.”
At the Twig & Fig stall this Sunday, you will find wreathes showcasing autumn and winter foliage. There will also be an enticing selection of home-made preserves including spiced pear, marrow and apple chutneys.
Jemimah says the chutneys are mature and ready to eat.
If that isn’t tempting enough, with the onset of such cold weather, Jemimah has been busy preparing edible treats for the festive season.
On Sunday she will bring mincemeat, made with local beef suet (from the Eadles family farm in Oxfordshire) and organic candied peel, which she cut by hand.
She will also take orders for her Christmas cakes, delicately decorated with nuts and fruit, to be collected at the last
market of the year on Sunday, December 11.
Jemimah creates her own unique recipes, which involves ‘a lot of trial and error to find the right balance of flavours’.
She often forages in nearby hedgerows for elderberries, rosehips and redcurrants. Other ingredients are home-grown or sourced from generous neighbouring gardens.
Her refined-sugar-free jams, containing birch sap (xylitol) as a natural sweetener, are particularly popular.
She said: “I feel that offering a local, seasonal and hand-made product is sort of a community service because it’s hard to find well made, small-scale jams, jellies and chutneys. I want to know there is the opportunity for people to find this kind of product. I make and sell what I would like to buy myself.”
She added: “People have really spoken with their feet and Maidenhead clearly love its jam!”
Originally from North London, Jemimah ‘fell in love with the rolling Chiltern hills and the beautiful wooden horizons’ of Buckinghamshire and now lives in High Wycombe with her husband.
She manages most of the work for Twig & Fig herself, describing it as ‘a real labour of love’. She sows the seeds and is reportedly often found up a ladder in her greenhouse, watering her flowers, while wearing a dressing gown.
Her husband and sister lend a hand during busy times and a neighbour’s five-year-old son recently helped out to plant raspberries.
She said: “I just adore flowers, plants and being outside in the fresh air. I love the countryside and the wide, open spaces. It’s such an antidote to the modern world, with our computers and offices with synthetic lights.
“I find it meditative. My garden is endlessly inspiring because it is endlessly changing. At the moment, I’m forcing some highly-scented, Paperwhite narcissi in time for Christmas. I can express my personality in my garden and be creative. Its
personal and fun.”
Sweet peas tend to grow in large volumes during the spring and summer in Jemimah’s garden.
She said: “At one point, I was cutting about 200 stems every two days. I had them everywhere in the house and was giving them away to friends, neighbours and colleagues!
“The sweet pea is quintessentially British and it actually grows best in our colder spring climate. The flowers can’t be easily transported due to their delicate and frilly petals, so they are definitely best grown as locally as possible.”
Jemimah is involved with Flowers from the Farm, a nationwide organisation seeking to promote the British flower-growing industry. Flowers from the Farm connects local, often small-scale growers and sellers like Jemimah together, to share their experiences and expertise, and create displays at flower shows.
So wrap up warm on Sunday morning and head to the Maidenhead Farmers’ Market in the Grove Road car park to meet Jemimah and many more local, friendly producers.