Mainly due to its milder oceanic climate but also to the very fertile soils in certain areas (such as the Darent valley), Kent is known as the Garden of England, a region of intense agricultural activity, for its orchards and cultures. Animal rearing and fishing have also been prolific since days immemorial, partly due to the county's coastal location. These auspicious conditions for agriculture have resulted in a privileged place in the cultivation of certain plants, which combined with other elements, gives Kent its distinctive culinary traits. Besides indigenous plants, others were brought from mainland Europe by invaders, particularly the Romans, who managed to successfully acclimatise grapevines, cherries and hops to Britain. That is how certain recipes containing these plants are specific to Kent. Another intensely grown plant in previous centuries was the cobnut, which is a variety of hazelnut and used to be cultivated on more than 7000 acres, of which approximately 250 remain today. They are used in a number of Kent dishes as well.
Before the 16th century, ale was very popular in Kent, being made primarily from honey and malt. A new brewing recipe based on hops, which up to that point had been used solely for cooking, was then attempted and proved successful. Hop beer had the quality of excellent preservation, and although at first it was not accepted by local authorities and was banned from public consumption, in time it established its place on the market, which it still holds today through reputable brands. Hop beer is served in pubs all over Kent and is considered one of its most particular products. Visitors can try local beer and other drinks at the Kentish Beer Festival, which takes place annually in Canterbury, between the 20th and 22nd of June
Kentish oysters. Although there are a few other locations in the UK where oysters can be found, the primary source in the whole country is the municipality of Whitstable, where oyster commerce has been attested as a prosperous trade for over four centuries. The Whitstable Oyster Festival is celebrated yearly and is appreciated by many as a colourful local event.
Angels on Horseback. This is the name of a Kentish speciality consisting of oysters and bacon rashers, which are grilled together and then served on buttered toast.
Folkestone Pudding Pie. It is also referred to as Lenten pie and is basically a rice and milk filling enclosed in a pie pastry. As the name suggests, it was meant for consumption during Lent periods, which restrict certain foods on religious grounds.
Canterbury Pudding. There are a number of distinctive recipes for this dish, but it mainly consists of breadcrumbs, pastry ingredients, brandy, milk and lemon juice. A variation with no breadcrumbs exists yet it is said to be rather dry.
Ginger Cobnut Cake. This cake is made with pastry ingredients, plus grated ginger and cobnuts, or alternatively hazelnuts. It is relatively easy to make and requires little baking time.
Cherry Batter Pudding. Akin to many puddings, it is made with ground cereals (wheat flour and corn flour), sunflower oil, eggs, milk, and of course, cherries and apple juice. Cherries are a traditional ingredient for many Kentish deserts.
Huffkins. Huffkins are traditional bakery products resembling bread rolls yet with a specific consistency, which take longer to prepare than similar modern bakery products, which are customised to meet the speedy production requirement. They are renowned for their softer texture and are customarily served with fruit based products such as jams.
Although Kent has maintained its forefront position in UK's agricultural landscape, the last few decades have seen a decrease in its agricultural activities and production, as other sectors of the market are taking over, such as services, and traditional, resource-related occupations seem to lose their prominence. However, nowadays there is a movement among farmers, seeking to restore Kent's traditional farming to its initial success by encouraging the consumption of local produce, as opposed to relying on multinationals and their imported, genetically modified, pesticide-laden foods. Kent has long been renowned for its market towns such as Ashford and Dover; today events related to buying local produce and organic farming are becoming increasingly popular. Today, there are over 40 farmers' markets in Kent, with a permanent one established in Canterbury, at a location known as The Goods Shed. Organic food enthusiasts can find products of all types, of both vegetal and animal origin.