Returning this week for its second year, the organisers of the Forth Valley Food Festival are promising that wild cocktails, foraged pizzas, pumpkin treats and chilli feasts will be on the menu at this year’s event.

The popular food festival will take place during the school October break with a top line-up designed to “showcase the region’s diverse local larder”.

Organisers say there will be a host of events to entertain the kids, from pumpkin picking and exploring the kale maze at Arnprior Pumpkins to meeting the goats and foraging for their own pizza toppings at Gartur Stitch Farm in Port of Menteith.

Adults can enjoy wild cocktail making in Aberfoyle with foraging experts Trossachs Wild Apothecary and a chilli feast and film screening at the Old Mill in Killearn.

Organised by Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER, in conjunction with Stirling Council, the festival aims to shine a spotlight on the people who grow and produce food locally, as well as the businesses that serve and sell local food and drink.

Douglas Johnston, chair of the local LEADER programme, said: “The festival offers a taste of Forth Valley’s local larder, which is bursting with fantastic food and drink produce.

“We want to help locals and tourists discover the delights on our doorstep by connecting them with our local food makers and growers. This year we’ve made it even easier to explore the area, with a special festival food trail map.”

Convener of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, Cllr Margaret Brisley commented on the importance of food and drink to the local economy, she said: “This festival is a superb showcase of our vibrant and thriving food and drink sector, serving up a wide range of activities and tasty treats for families to sample. I am thrilled it’s returning for a second offering and we will continue collaborating with partners to stage exciting events like this to strengthen this important area of Stirling’s economy.”

Vice convener of the committee, Cllr Alison Laurie added: “The Forth Valley Food Festival allows residents and tourists the opportunity to experience, explore and taste local flavours and boosts our ambition to become a must-visit destination for food and drink. With such a diverse variety of events taking place in urban and rural Stirling, there will be something for everyone to enjoy and I am sure it will prove to be another great success.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the events at this year’s 10-day festival:

• Guests can get their hands dirty with a tree planting and gardening session at the University of Stirling’s community garden and orchard on Friday 11 October. (10am-4pm, Free to enjoy. Click here to book)

The Forth Inn in Aberfoyle will be showing how to use locally foraged ingredients to craft wild cocktails with Rox Madeira of Trossachs Wild Apothecary. Those attending can savour nature infused concoctions alongside tasty local food samples from Balfron NeighbourFood, whilst enjoying a performance by the UK’s only professional Taiko drummers – as seen on the BBC Proms. (Friday 11 October. 7-9.30pm. Over 18s only. price: £25. Click here to book)

Rox Madeira of Trossachs Wild Apothecary.

Stirling NeighbourFood also opens for orders on Friday 11 October for collection on Thursday 17 October at Made in Stirling 4.30-6.30pm. Thanks to local market hosts Forth Environment Link, buying from the local producers featured at the festival couldn’t be easier, with local bread, jam, cheese, dairy, eggs, meat and veg all available to click and collect.

• Throughout the festival Blair Drummond Smiddy will also be supporting local food. They’ll be promoting local beef from Lochfield Farm, Doune and lamb from Grassmainston Farm, Clackmannan in their butchery, eggs from Old Leckie Farm in Gargunnock in their café and Monument Honey from Stirling in their farm shop.

• Meet the goats at Gartur Stitch Farm, one of the UK’s top-rated experiences on Airbnb. Kevin Harrison and Kat Goldin will welcome you to their small holding with home baked sourdough bread and pastries before you head out to milk the goats, hand feed their Soay sheep and collect eggs to take home. (Available from 11-20 October. Adults £17, children free. Click here to book)

Meet the goats with and Kevin of Gartur Stitch.

Gartur Stitch Farm will also be running a ‘Forage for Your Pizza’ event on Saturday 12 October and Saturday 19 October, 3.30-7pm where guests will learn how to forage in the woods and enjoy a woodfired pizza made with their finds. (Adults £25, under 16s £15. Click here to book)

• Saturday 12 October sees the launch of pumpkin picking season at Arnprior Farm. Guests can pick their perfect pumpkin from the 7000 available, get lost in the kale maze, ride the quad pods and sample some local food and drink.

This year, anyone can book a late date night on the patch from £5. (Click here for more details and to book your slot from 12-27 October)

Stirling Farmers’ Market also returns to Port Street on Saturday 12 October with a host of local produce on offer, including sourdough pumpkin bread and spiced apple buns by Riverside Bakery CIC, sweet treats from Ochil Fudge and jams and chutneys by Perthshire Preserves.

• Should you want to find out how fruit, veg and flowers are grown, then you can pop along to Tomnah’a Market Garden in Comrie Croft for a guided tour – staff and volunteers will be on hand to describe how they farm, some of the tools and techniques they use and how they sell directly to their members including through Stirling NeighbourFood. (Free. 11am-12 noon. No booking required)

• People can also join Stirling University Students’ Union in their community garden on Monday 14 October for a drop-in gardening session. (Free. 2-4pm, meet in the University Atrium at 1.50pm. No experience required)

• For the final weekend of the festival (19 – 20 October), the Old Mill Restaurant at Killearn has teamed up with local farm Foragers Foods and filmmaker Zev Robinson, to create a unique film screening and dinner experience, held in the Old Mill’s yurt.

Alice and Mark Silverwood, chilli feast at the Old Mill Killearn

Watch a 30-minute screening of ‘The Great British Chilli’, followed by a special three course locally sourced menu, designed to show how mild chillies can be used to enhance the flavour of a dish without overpowering it. Both the film and the food will feature Foragers’ chillies, with panel discussion to follow.

Explaining the background to the documentary, Zev Robinson said: “The last couple of decades has seen a dramatic evolution of food with a greater demand for quality food from local sources. People have realised that using near-by sources means fresher produce, strengthens the local economy, supports communities and reduces carbon footprints, among other benefits.” (Tickets £25. Click here to book)

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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