Sheep have been important to the area at least since medieval times. The breed known as Hampshire Down appeared from the 1840’s. Major sheep fairs at Winchester, Weyhill, Overton, Stockbridge and Whitchurch allowed brisk trading.
Pork is particularly associated with the New Forest, where pigs graze on acorns, beech mast and windfall apples from orchards. The quality of the bacon and ham is very good. Rasher puddings were a popular cottage meal and were useful because they used up scraps of meat and bread. Hampshire Haslet is another favourite and it is a simple pork loaf dish.
Watercress is an indigenous plant introduced to commercial cultivation in 1808. Hampshire was one of the main counties in England to grow the crop because of the many clear, free-flowing streams. The river Arle at Alresford had five watercress growers listed in 1890 and the town is still the centre of watercress production in Hampshire. The largest grower in Europe, Vitacress Ltd, was founded in Alresford.
Watercress used to be sent by stagecoach to London but later it went by train on a line that became known as The Watercress Line. The Watercress Line steam train still exists and it now carries tourists (rather than the salad crop) the short distance from Alresford to Alton.
Fish dishes were a major component of Hampshire cookery. The rivers Avon and Test are famed for their fishing and Christchurch and Fordingbridge have been leading centres for river fishing. Christchurch is particularly well known for salmon and Fordingbridge and the river Whitewater for trout.
The revival of English wine came about in Hampshire at Hambledon when Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones planted the first modern commercial vineyard in 1952.
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