Now in its ninth year, British Food Fortnight (18 September to 3 October) is the biggest national celebration of the diverse and delicious range of food that Britain produces. To provide a snapshot of what's available, Caterer has taken a tour of the country to sample some of the regional delights
1. East Anglia
The East of England enjoys a fantastic array of fine food. Traditionally reared and produced, these include a vast array of fresh vegetables and salads from the Fens which stretch across Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and into the north of Bedfordshire where they grow Brussel sprouts, leeks, lettuces and quick growing radishes and spring onions.
Fruit orchards and soft fruit is grown prolifically, including the Bramley apple which heralds from Wisbech, and south Essex is home to acres of raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries which have been traditionally sold via the London wholesale markets which are close by.
Suffolk has light, sandy soils which suit root crops such as parsnips and carrots and which pigs love to root around in - apparently there are more head of pig than people in Suffolk. The area also produces two types of Newmarket sausage and a Suffolk ham and bacon.
Surrounded on three sides by water, the region offers a large variety of seafood and fish including bass, cod, Cromer crabs, scallops, oysters and the Thames herring. Closer to the Wash there are many varieties of winkles whelks and shrimps.
There are grazing animals in the low-lying wetlands such as beef and sheep, including the Suffolk sheep with its black feet and face. The Chiltern hills to the south of the region boasts great sheep grazing land while around the marshes grazing creates salt marsh beef and lamb.
Another area the East excels in is drink, offering a wide variety from cider and apple juice both made from locally sourced apples, water, lager and many micro-breweries using locally grown malting barley.
At the start of the year, rabbit and hare are firm features on the Scottish market with a season that lasts just the first couple of months. Plentiful supplies of partridge, pheasant and guinea fowl as well as grouse and goose are available from autumn onwards.
Fresh Scottish lamb arrives in May with a season that lasts until August. September to December you'll start finding supplies of hill lamb available. Scottish chicken, wild roe deer, beef and pork are available all year round.
Wild salmon has a huge season lasting from February to September while fresh mussels are available for the first three months of the year as well as September and October. The Scottish oyster season runs from September through to January. Farmed scallops are available all year round but wild scallops tend to be available only around January.
From award-winning heather-fed lamb, beef, game, vegetables, cheese, ice-cream, puddings, preserves and seafood, the North-east is home to a wide range of fine food and drink producers and suppliers. Lindisfarne Oysters and Holy Island Mussels, honey from the banks of the Tweed, local ice-cream producers using Jersey milk and milk from Lanchester Dairies and award-winning cheeses from across the region are just some of the delights on offer.
4. East Midlands
Not only does the region include some of the most fertile growing areas for fruit and vegetables in the shape of the Fens, it also hosts small market towns with their rural specialities, large regional cities with their ethnic mix, and the rolling hills of the Peak District, which are renowned for their meat, pastries and puddings.
The East Midlands has many good-quality regional products to be proud of - from famous products such as Stilton cheese, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Bakewell puddings, and Lincolnshire sausage, to delicious artisan products such as jams, chutneys, breads, pies and cakes.
5. Heart of England/West Midlands
Shropshire has a wealth of food expertise including its smokers, bakers, vineyards and cheesemakers and is also known for its innovation with products such as rapeseed oil.
From Herefordshire comes the traditional breed of Hereford beef, along with apples, potatoes and hops. The county also competes with Somerset and Kent as the largest cider producing county in the UK.
Worcestershire is legendary for its horticultural region of the Vale of Evesham, boasting dozens of fruit growers and market gardeners. The county is most popular for its asparagus and apple and pear orchards. Warwickshire has thousands of acres of fertile soils producing wheat, barley, oilseed rape and lush grazing land for sheep and dairy cattle.
Birmingham has a strong food economy and the Black Country is well known for its faggots (large meatballs made of pork, sage and onion) which can be found in most butchers' shops.
With different landscapes across Cheshire, Lancashire, Manchester, Merseyside and Cumbria each county is defined by a variety of fantastic foods. Cumbria, with the sweeping, rugged landscape of the Lake District and surrounding moors, is the home of comfort foods - sharp damsons for warming autumn puds, traditional Cumberland sausages and meats such as wild venison and Herdwick lamb.
Neighbouring Lancashire is famed for its real farmhouse cheese with different farms producing different tastes - some crumbly and light, some creamy and some matured to produce a rich, melt-in-the-mouth finish. And it would be criminal not to mention black pudding; again recipes vary across the county but a full Lancashire breakfast would be incomplete without it.
The coast of Merseyside is home to some of the best brown shrimp in the world and potted shrimp with its secret family butter recipes can be found the length of the coast. From watercress to brassicas the rich soil also makes a perfect vegetable growing area.
The vegetable growing continues into Cheshire with Cheshire new potatoes perfect for an early summer salad. The area also has a long history of dairy farming which is evident in the Cheshire cheese, yogurt and indulgent, luxury ice-cream available.
The Eccles Cake, arch rival of Lancashire's Chorley Cake, comes from Greater Manchester. The area is a magnet for real ale lovers with a plethora of micro-breweries. The county also has a great baking tradition - from breads to pies and puddings such as the famous Manchester Tart.
The South-east of England is a diverse region producing a wide variety of products ranging from dairy to meats, vegetables, seafood, fruit, wines and beers. The region is particularly strong in providing top fruit, salads, seafood and is well-known for supplying the first asparagus, peas and other crops of the season, owing to its climate.
The South Downs and marches produce free-range meats such as South Downs Lamb and Romney Marsh lamb, which grazes on the salt marches in Kent. Other areas such as Surrey and Berkshire provide succulent pork and beef.
The fishing industry is mainly characterised by "under 10 metre day boats", landing fresh seafood every day in ports such as Portsmouth, Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings and Ramsgate. Sustainable species caught off the South-east coast include line-caught sea bass, Dover sole and Selsey lobster as well as mackerel, whiting and gurnard.
Besides the food there's a range of well-established and internationally acclaimed English sparkling wines from the region's vineyards.
The South-west prides itself on the number of producers who have found routes to market in the area. Specific products that famously hail from the South-west include grass-fed beef, early Cornish potatoes, scallops, tuna, vegetables, locally smoked fish, pasties, organic soups and, of course, clotted cream.
Local chefs, led by Michael Caines, have championed the areas quality produce, with many speciality suppliers benefitting. And through the work of South West Food & Drink (SWFD), as the umbrella organisation for the Food & Drink industry in the area, links have been established between the growers, suppliers and producers and the rest of the country.
9. Yorkshire and Humber
Some foods in the Yorkshire and Humber region are so distinctive that they warrant special protection. Such products have a strong regional identity, produced using age old methods or ingredients excusive to their place of origin, unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Four have now been awarded Protected Food Name (PFN) status by the European Union, which means they are legally registered and protected from imitation anywhere in Europe. They are: Traditional Grimsby Smoked Fish, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, Swaledale Cheese and Swaledale Ewe's Cheese.
Real Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese and Yorkshire Beer are currently in the process of gaining PFN status.
The beginning of autumn is a great time for leeks, pears and apples, and it's the best time of the year to buy rabbit for its subtle gamey flavour. Outdoor pork is also at its peak and there are some exemplary producers in the region.
Moving into winter there are Brussels sprouts and Yorkshire's biggest producer, WC Clappison, accounts for 4% of the UK's sprout production. There's also turkey, venison and pheasant during autumn and winter.
A 1,200km coastline provides fresh, sea air to three sides of Wales - a sweep of rich, green landscape rolls back inland, offering mile after mile of hills and mountains where flocks are able to roam and feed on the best that nature has to offer.
Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef's unique heritage, character and reputation have been recognised by the European Commission (EC) and have been awarded the status of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Gower Salt Marsh Lamb is fully traceable and the animals are born on the farms where they live and spend most of their lives grazing the salt marsh.
Sea salt is harvested in North Wales and is one of the many products from the country that has been exported across the world. Created from the fresh Atlantic waters surrounding Anglesey, the salt-making process begins with pure charcoal-filtered sea water drawn from Wales's Menai Straits.
11. Northern Ireland
No matter where you are in Northern Ireland you are always close to the source of local food because you are never far from a farm. The dependable Northern Irish drizzle produces lush green pasture from the Lakelands of Fermanagh and the drumlins of County Down to the heights of the Sperrins and the Mournes that in turn produce some of the finest beef and dairy products in the world.
Also, Northern Ireland farmers have been rearing pigs since before records began and many enthusiastic amateurs venture into the world of pig-rearing so there's plenty of bacon for hearty Northern Irish breakfasts accompanied by traditional soda or potato bread.
There are orchards in County Armagh that are more than 1,000 years old, Bramley apples have been grown there for over 200 years.
what's happening during british food fortnight
On your marks, get set, go: This year's event is a warm-up for 2012 when British Food Fortnight will run at the same time as the London Olympics. Shops, pubs and restaurants are responding to the challenge by trial-running patriotic British food promotions in preparation for welcoming the world to Britain.
Food promotion: A record nine of the largest food service organisations and eight major pub groups are joining the hundreds of independent shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels putting British food on the menu and shop-shelves during the two weeks.
The public have their say: Members of the public have been asked to vote for the slogan that they think best promotes British food. The results will be published at the start of the Fortnight.
University challenge: More than 20 universities are rising to the challenge with British Food Fortnight promotions in student cafés and canteens. And the event's long-established initiative sending chefs into schools is expanding into Sure Start Children's Centres where parents are being taught how to prepare healthy, affordable British meals.
Schools compete to cook: This year's British Food Fortnight School Challenge is the biggest yet. Secondary schools are being challenged to design and cook a meal based on recipes that would have been used in their school's part of the country by previous generations. The winning school will be invited to London to cook their chosen meal for HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and the Hairy Bikers.
where to find regional producers
Food North West
www.foodnw.co.ukNorth East England Food & Drink
http://www.nigoodfood.com" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.tastenortheastengland.co.uk ](http://www.tastenortheastengland.co.uk)Regional Food Group forYorkshire & Humber
Heart of England Fine Foods
East Midlands Fine Foods
Tastes of Anglia
South East Food Group Partnership
Taste of the West
Wales the True Taste
[www.walesthetruetaste.co.uk ](http://www.walesthetruetaste.co.uk)Scotland Food and Drink
[www.scotlandfoodanddrink.org ](http://www.scotlandfoodanddrink.org)Northern Ireland Food and Drink