Celebrating my roots

Pictured is Natalie Hunt, aka 'Madame Zucchini' at Fruits & Roots Veg shop on South Road,Walkley.
Pictured is Natalie Hunt, aka 'Madame Zucchini' at Fruits & Roots Veg shop on South Road,Walkley.

Madame Zucchini is “quite well known in Walkley”, offering vegetable entertainment for the healthy eating and educational market as well as for cabaret, celebrations and parties.

Real name Natalie Hunt, she set up in business two years ago while still doing community development work, specialises in vegetable theatre (Jaws, Red Riding Hood, Harry Potter and the Genetically Modified Artichoke of Doom, to name but a few) and is probably Sheffield’s only vegetable entertainer.

In one of her shows, Lois Leek and Peter Parsnip combat the Artificial Cheesebeast with the help of five-a-day-monster, and she is now looking to work with schools and others to take her health-inspiring veg actors to where they are needed most.

See www.madamezucchini.co.uk and follow her vegetable updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s a bit of veg verse to start with (to the tune of My Favourite Things):

Orangey carrots so firm and fantastic

Aubergine slices they are quite elastic

Sprouts I can make into creatures with wings

These are a few of my favourite things

When the weather’s cold, when my head hurts, when I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favourite veg and then I don’t feel so bad.


When I first moved to Sheffield, I lived in Nether Edge and Sharrow and have a fond affection for both, but Walkley is my stamping ground, from the street where I live, the view from my back garden up the Loxley Valley towards Bradfield, the walks around and about, South Road (where I can catch the 31 community transport bus) and its many businesses and pubs including the newly reopened Blake pub. This year’s Walkley Festival is June 26-July 11. Mostly quietly creative and industrious as a suburb, we seem to be getting more colourful and eclectic.

Greengrocers and vegetable purveyors

My dad was a fruit and vegetable merchant so I was brought up surrounded by root vegetables and family working on the land.

And I get through quite a bit of veg in my work, so this is for the little independent veg traders who struggle sometimes in the face of the larger supermarkets, the purveyors of the mooli and bitter gourd: like the varied shops on Spital Hill, the Chinese supermarket in town, Just Natural in Crookes, Fruit A Peel in Broomhill, Eve’s in Hillsborough, Beanies with its amazing display, Sharrow Marrow, Zed’s and of course Fruits and Roots on South Road.

Walk to town via South Road, Walkley

A sign of a good community for me is knowing your shopkeepers, and on the way into town I can chat to/wave at Walkley News, D’Arcy’s Sweetshop, Townsend’s Florists, South Yorkshire Animal Rescue, Fruits and Roots, Chris Beech Meats, Walkley Stores, Vito’s and the Fireplace shop, and, a bit further down, Beanies.

Then I walk on past the Ponderosa where the marvellous Peace in the Park festival takes place, through Weston Park, the University, on to Glossop Road, Division Street maybe calling into Bungalows and Bears for a dandelion and burdock or the Blue Moon for a slice of banana cake, or the Rutland Arms for a glass of perry.

Cabaret Boom Boom

When I first discovered Cabaret Boom Boom five years ago, I couldn’t believe that such great entertainment was within ten minutes of home. Mme Z made her first appearance there and is often in attendance. Expertly compered by Mr Lodge, Mr Maynard and Mr Herbert and supported by a wonderfully communal team, I believe it’s one of the best nights out in Sheffield. And the community centre has a whole load of other stuff going on too. It’s inspired me to put on my own cabaret nights, and work with the large number of talented artists and performers in Sheffield, connected to Greentop, The Lantern and other venues around the city.

Charity shops

Hillsborough is a firm favourite for a rummage, and good pickings are also to be had in Broomhill. I’ve found some fine costumes for Mme Z at Oxfam and Shelter there in particular. My mum was always very glamorous, had a wig shop, then sold bric a brac, jewellery and furniture in the Cambridgeshire fens where I grew up, so she taught me to enjoy clothes, and rifle through boxes for bargains. I particularly favour green, naturally, but am not averse to a purple or even silver frock (especially if a little unique) and I’m always on the lookout for vegetable-themed oddities for props.

Upperthorpe pool (Healthy Living Centre)

This has got to be the cosiest, most laidback pool – not too many speedy swimmers thrashing up the lanes, and you can chat to the older folk in the communal showers (with costumes on, I hasten to add)

Nether Edge/Sharrow and Sharrowvale

I love to walk over from Walkley via: The Rude Shipyard, Bragazzi’s, Airy Fairy, Café No 9, The Old Sweet Shop, and then Sharrowvale for more wonderful shops, and maybe a hot chocolate at Cocoa. It’s wonderful how the farmers/street markets are really taking off in the city, emphasising local produce and bringing people together.

Castle Market

Great for a wander round and a huge range of stuff on sale – anything from yams to beef dripping, cheese, fish, toffee or haberdashery. And I can pull up my veg trolley and take it all in and have a chat when I stop for a mug of tea and a slice of toast.

Artichoke tubers and mashy bananas

Chickpeas with lemon topped off with sultanas

Courgettes I make into soup with green beans

These are a few of my favourite things

When the bus is late, when my feet ache, when I meet a cad

I simply remember my favourite veg, and then I don’t feel so bad.