Stories Food Growers tell

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In wintery April weather, we chatted over a prolonged afternoon tea. As well as asking each other’s advice, like Chris wondering about planting chokos, we also shared surplus produce and stories.

Some were proper food-growing tales, like Jenny J’s disaster when two heifers got out of the paddock and into the veggies. Apparently, they walked delicately down the paths, causing minimal damage to the infrastructure, despite their half ton weights, yet in their hunger devastated the veggies all the same. Our White Face who loved to jump never got close to the veggie patch, though several times she visited the neighbour’s steers after achieving a clear round, not even nicking the top bar of the gate.

Talking of clear rounds, the other Jenny is an accomplished equestrian, but it seems riding camels is not the same as riding horses. She took an early tumble on her first camel experience. She hastily remounted, so her host would not see her indignity. How does one hastily mount a camel? They seem such unfriendly creatures, and I thought camel rides required the handler to make the beast sit before inexperienced riders attempted mounting. I guess that’s the difference between a real farmer and an ex-townie, real farmers can make even camels obey!

The White Face heifer I mentioned earlier, Freckles, was not at all obedient the day we tried to load her on the truck. Although our little yards are over 5 feet high, she managed to get her forequarters out in her bid for freedom. We had to stand guard, “persuading” her back, or I am sure she’d somehow have escaped and eaten our veggies.

The prize for the oddest job recounted that afternoon goes to Tim and Joanna, deconstructing their orchid houses. Often harder work than building them in the first place. Their little orchard already produced so many surplus Beurre Bosc pears that after the group took what they wanted there were still more for me to share more widely.

A tale of two mushrooms: Eating local?

Mushroom photo by orchidgalore (I forgot to take a shot of mine 🙁

It is better to eat local. That’s a no brainer. Forget about foodmiles, carbon footprints and the like, just remember the tale of two mushrooms. The first was actually several small buttons, used by the cafe to garnish my lamb’s fry (liver) and bacon. They were anonymous and almost tasteless, the sort every supermarket sells. Who knows where they came from, and apart from presentation 1 My chef son will remind me here that presentation is nine tenths of the flavour, but that’s not quite true. they added nothing to the dish. The second mushroom was a fat giant, bought from the mushroom man at the Tauranga Farmers’ Market. We hadn’t been kind to it, kept it several days sitting in its paper bag in the bottom of the fridge forgotten, till I grilled it for lunch. Fat, juicy and bursting with mushroom flavour, despite the delay and despite cooking it merely by shoving it under the grill with a slosh of olive oil while my bacon toasted.

The local mushroom beat the supermarket thing hands down (I do wonder why some cafes seek to save cents by serving tasteless mushrooms, but that’s another story).

Much of the produce from the Farmers’ Market is organic or spray free for much the same price as the mass market produce. Almost all of it tastes better, usually fresher, often with a story 2 The tale of the people who produced it, or at least the look of them if the stall was too busy for a chat. and sometimes just like in a Kongo market with a “matabiche”. 3 The same idea as a baker’s dozen, a little extra to keep a customer returning to your stall by thanking them for their custom. Like the packet of bacon Frank, of Frank’s Sausages, gave us on Saturday.

You may think that eating local is a luxury for country folk, not so, there are markets all over NZ. So, as the guy on the TV advert says “Eat fresh!”

Notes   [ + ]

1. My chef son will remind me here that presentation is nine tenths of the flavour, but that’s not quite true.
2. The tale of the people who produced it, or at least the look of them if the stall was too busy for a chat.
3. The same idea as a baker’s dozen, a little extra to keep a customer returning to your stall by thanking them for their custom. Like the packet of bacon Frank, of Frank’s Sausages, gave us on Saturday.