The legacy of Marlborough settlers is the key to an award-winning walnut oil, say the owners of Uncle Joe's Walnuts & Hazelnuts.
Jenny and Malcolm Horwell own the Grovetown company, and their walnut oil has won gold at the Christchurch A&P Show for the fourth year in a row.
Mrs Horwell said the walnuts come from two "huge" trees on their property as well as others planted all around Marlborough.
They collect about 100 kilograms of walnuts from their two walnut trees, which they believe are about 100 years old. The rest are bought from people who gather walnuts around the region.
"There are so many lovely old [walnut] trees around Marlborough. Lots of people, when they settled here in the early 1900s, planted trees and they are still there," Mrs Horwell said.
She was sure that the range of walnuts from different parts of the region was the reason for the great flavour of the oil.
Uncle Joe's paid a good price for walnuts that had been properly dried, she said.
It was important to gather walnuts as soon as possible after they had fallen, especially when there was wet weather, because moisture affected the kernel, she said.
Uncle Joe's shells and grades the nuts at Grovetown, and sends them to a specialty company in Ashburton that produces the oil.
The company sells the walnut and hazelnut kernels straight from the shell, and also makes nut spreads.
The Horwells planted a hazelnut orchard in 2000, adding more trees each year until 2003.
The orchard covers 2.5 hectares and produces about 25 tonnes of nuts a year.
The company sells nuts, spreads and oils to specialty shops, New World supermarkets and other businesses.
The North Island was a large part of its market, especially Auckland, Mrs Horwell said.
"Aucklanders love them because they can't really grow them well up there."
She said Australian companies had approached Uncle Joe's to export across the Tasman, and although the company was looking at a few options, it was not on the agenda in the short term.