Original article from Kent Live
Stricter health measures and the tides of time have meant that gypsy tarts have become a thing of the past.
Kent locals will recall fond memories of the sugary dessert from school lunches of yesteryear.
The story goes that a kooky elderly lady on the Isle of Sheppey saw some children looking underfed once upon a time.
She set about making them something to eat and, with not many ingredients to hand, the gypsy tart was born.
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The dessert is an important part of Kent heritage but, in some ways, is fading into the past – you won't find schoolchildren funnelling the sickly sweet pudding down their gullets during their lunch break anymore.
Given that there are around 400 calories per tart, that's perhaps not a surprise with modernised health laws.
Nonetheless, whenever a gypsy tart is mentioned it is met with fond memories from the people of Kent and a desire to keep the dessert alive.
One bakery at the heart of the gypsy tart heritage is Crusties of Broadstairs.
A family project, Michael, Sheila and their children have been baking in the county for more than 25 years.
Part of the furniture
Michael, who goes by 'Mr Crustie', is at the helm of the family-run business and is keeping the gypsy tart dream alive.
The Crusties shop first opened on Broadstairs High Street, where it still stands today and is very much part of the furniture in Thanet.
Mr Crustie said: "We're well known by everybody. We serve all around Thanet, the schools, the colleges, the pubs, corner stores… all sorts.
"When we first kicked off there were certainly 10 other bakers around, now really and truly we are the only one as an independent baker."
Michael admits that, just like with many other small businesses, "the last year has been a challenge" but has come through the pandemic without laying off any staff.
During lockdowns Crusties once again stepped up to the plate to rally behind other struggling locals.
Michael said: "We were supplying different customers who weren't customers previously, like nursing homes where it was a challenge for them to get bread from the supermarket.
"They've since reverted back but they appreciated we were there when they needed it."
Crusties is much more than simply a cherished local baker's these days.
The family are very much the leading light when it comes to keeping the history of gypsy tarts alive.
A bit of Kent in supermarkets
You might have spotted Crusties' gypsy tarts in Asda and Morrisons shops across Kent and even further afield.
Michael explains: "Originally Asda was looking for individual things that were made in Kent and different areas, like in Manchester they were looking into the Manchester tart.
"Their rep down here in Kent was looking for something associated with Kent and came up with the idea of gypsy tarts.
"We were approached by a company who supplies Asda and Morrisons and they made us aware of what they were looking for and asked if we could make them, which we did.
"They went up to Asda's head office in Leeds where they were sampled. It went on from there.
"We kicked off with small machinery in a small part of our bakery and then it flew so we had to move from there to bigger premises where we have bigger machinery and can cope with producing more."
The Crusties factory is still very much local, operating in Manston, and is managed by one of Michael's sons, Ian.
To date, the factory has produced a staggering 12 million gypsy tarts, the family say.
The tarts are sold in supermarket stores across Kent and in neighbouring counties, but Crusties have had interest in their project from people much further flung.
Kent expats who still harbour a love for the sweet treats have contacted the family asking how to get their fix of the sugary taste.
Michael said: "Although we only supply Asda and Morrisons in the south east we have emails and correspondence from people all over the country who have come from Kent in their time and really want to know where they can get the gypsy tarts in their area.
"It's an awkward one to start posting out to people but it is something we've been looking at to see if we can go online with them."