Welcome to The Garden of England, the country’s oldest – and possibly greenest – county, a place of breath-taking landscapes, ancient cathedrals, and more castles and historic houses than any similar region of England. The nickname comes from the county’s abundance of orchards and gardens (or possibly from Henry VIII, who was purportedly so delighted with a bowl of Kent cherries that he pronounced the county ‘The Garden of England’).
Among other notable places, Kent brings us the white cliffs of Dover, the most haunted village in Britain, and the smallest town in the country.
The county is also famed for its traditional culinary delights: Wimbledon’s strawberries (of court-side fame) are all grown in Kent, as are Kentish Cobs, the most popular hazelnut in the UK. And Whitstable is known nationwide for its 600-year-old oyster industry and the Whitstable Dredgerman’s Breakfast: fat-soaked toast laden with freshly-caught oysters and streaked bacon, all washed down with strong black tea.
From Dover, we get the Dover Sole, often served grilled or fried with a lemon garnish and some locally-grown potatoes. And a pint of beer is a prerequisite at lunchtime – hops have been grown here since the 1500s; from the late 1800s hop-picking in Kent was a popular working holiday for the poorer families of London’s East End; small breweries still abound. And the charmingly-named huffkins (a bread roll with a small indentation that can be filled with jam or whipped cream) also originate in Kent.
It’s dessert, however, where Kent really makes its gastronomic mark. Folkestone gives us the Folkestone Pudding Pie (also known as the Kentish Pudding Pie and Kentish Lenten Pie), a baked custard tart laced with nutmeg and sherry-soaked raisins. East Kent brings us Gypsy Tart, a simple dessert consisting of condensed milk and brown sugar baked in a pastry shell. But the Canterbury Tart is possibly the county’s most famous culinary creation: an open-faced apple pie made from local fruit seasoned with saffron, this dessert can be traced back to the 14th century; the very first recipe appears in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales!