Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kids Get Growing

A nine-year-old boy grows vegetables for his elderly neighbours, two-year-old twins stand vigil over emerging seeds and theMarlborough Farmers' Market and Community Gardens sprout a new kids gardening initiative.
For Marlborough woman Tina Fortune, the road to strong communities is lined with gardens.
The manager of the Marlborough Farmers' Market, initiator of the Mini Marketers, trustee manager of the Marlborough Community Gardens and creator of a new mobile kitchen classroom initiative, says gardens and dining room tables can be the perfect environment for growing better families and communities.
"For me, it is all about bringing people together."
Now she's merging several of her roles to help teach children about growing, cooking and eating fresh produce.
This Sunday the Community Gardens will kickstart a new satellite children's garden at the A&P Show Grounds, so the Mini Marketers, 50 young offshoots of the Marlborough Farmers' Market, can learn about gardening.
"The mantra of the Mini Marketers is `growing healthy kids one marketer at a time' and this project is all about delivering on that," she says.
Every Sunday morning of the Farmers' Market summer season, the children will develop the gardens, building eight raised beds, furnishing them with soil and worms, establishing compost to feed them (using waste from the market), planting the seeds, nurturing the plants and eventually harvesting the produce, learning all the while about helpful and harmful creatures in the garden, looking after their equipment, and respecting one another.
After harvest, the project will move into a new kitchen classroom, where the children can see how the produce is transformed into delicious meals.
The kitchen, as yet unbuilt and unnamed, is supported by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's nutrition and physical activity programme.
Spokeswoman Maria Baxter says they are really proud of the initiative, "because research shows gardening leads to improved health, improved nutritional knowledge and improved wellbeing".
Tina says the mobile learning unit will have a kitchen and seating for about 20, and will be entirely hands-on.
"We'll let the kids get in there and get their hands in the food."
Bench tops will be both child-height and adult-height friendly, so everyone has a comfortable learning environment.
In the kitchen and garden, Tina will use children to teach children, with established greenfingers like nine-year-old Joshua Marshall, runner-up in last year's New Zealand Gardener magazine's Gardener of the Year award, and 10-year-old Sophie Dawson, Tina's unofficial assistant manager, sharing their passion and knowledge with kids less experienced in the ways of digging dirt.
READER GIVEAWAY
The Marlborough Farmers' Market is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the launch of a beautiful new calendar with market shots by Marlborough photographer Jim Tannock. They have five to give away to lucky school-age readers. Available for collection from the Marlborough Farmers' Market in November.
To enter, write your name, address and daytime phone number on the back of an envelope and send it to: Farmers Market Calendar, PO Box 242, Blenheim, to reach us by October 15.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Naysayers eat their words

`It will never work." "We would erode family values by operating on a Sunday morning." "Give it a year and they will disappear."
I remember these words uttered when, 10 years ago, a small group of people started on the concept of a farmers' market in the Marlborough region.
Some people are afraid of things they don't understand, but supporting local food producers is simply a way of ensuring that we have a diverse region that is both sustaining and viable.
The Marlborough Farmers' Market is about to start another year, just one of 50 farmers' markets around New Zealand.
The fact that these markets have made a difference in the lives of thousands of local food producers around New Zealand means that we are truly becoming a country that celebrates what we have in our back yard, rather than relying on other countries to provide our food needs.
If anyone wants to sell at any farmers' market they must be involved in the production of the product, it must be an edible food product (exceptions for flowers and composts) and it must come from a defined area. The Marlborough Farmers' Market has defined its area from Rai Valley to Kaikoura.
This then ensures that the real local food producers and growers do not have to compete against on-sellers or resellers (with produce bought in bulk from a wholesaler or middleman from anywhere). For more information on which real food producers you can find in your back yard visit mfm.co.nz.
The Marlborough Farmers' market works closely with our local council and we have grown over the last 10 years to accommodate the success of the organisation and the food produced in our region.
We have received great support from locals and tourists and we look forward to working with them in the long term to showcase the very best of food from Marlborough at the A&P Park on Sundays, 9am to noon, rain or shine.
PRESERVED LEMON AND MINT RISOTTO
Easy to make, satisfying and goes well by itself or served with fresh seafood.
quarter cup grapeseed or Marlborough olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, chopped
4 cloves Marlborough garlic, minced (about 1Tbsp)
Marlborough sea salt to taste
2 cups arborio rice
half cup lemon juice
half cup white wine
6 to 8 cups hot vegetable stock
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
cup mascarpone
2 Tbsp finely diced preserved lemon rind (or 4 fresh lemons zested)
1 cup coarsely chopped mint and parsley leaves
2 cups peas Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or pot. Add the onion, fennel and garlic and sweat over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
Add the rice and raise the heat to medium high. Stir to coat and slightly toast the rice for about 3 minutes. You should hear a lively crackling in the pot. The rice will take on a shiny, translucent coat.
Add the lemon juice and white wine to the rice and continue stirring until the liquid is almost completely absorbed. Add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice and continue stirring. As the stock is absorbed, continue adding it by ladleful and stirring. If you watch carefully, you'll see that towards the end the rice really gives itself over to the liquid, releasing its starch to make a kind of cream.
Add the lemon zest or rind and the peas. If you like, finish with a little strong cheese, season to taste and allow to rest for 5 mins.
VEGETABLE STOCK
 2 onions, peeled and quartered
1 bulb Marlborough garlic, peeled
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, scrubbed clean, cut into large chunks
2 carrots, scrubbed, cut into large chunks
2 stalks celery, cleaned, cut into large chunks (leaves optional)
1 Tbsp mixed peppercorns
2 bay leaves, sprigs of thyme and sprigs of parsley.
Prepare all the ingredients and put into a large pot. Add water to cover until the ingredients start to float. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Strain out the vegetables and herbs, then refrigerate or freeze the liquid into medium sized container

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate - Wild Tomato


From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate

Freshly roasted coffee, delicious local produce and Marlborough’s who’s who | The Marlborough Farmers’ Market has become the essential place to be on Sunday morning By Toni Gillan | Photography by Jim Tannock


On Sunday mornings I wake up in high spirits because the farmers’ market is being held. And I’m not alone. Taking time out from their busy weeks, an increasing number of Marlburians are grabbing their recyclable shopping bags to buy into farmers’ market mindfulness.

From farm gate to dinner plate, the Marlborough Farmers’ Market has evolved into a celebration of the good life – a feel-good Sunday blessing of the simple values of our community.

Held at the A&P Showgrounds – come rain, shine, blistering heat or chilly southerlies – from spring until late autumn, the farmers’ market takes life and living well beyond the enjoyment of an organic breakfast while imbibing a fair trade coffee fix. As we buy up locally-grown produce from enthusiastic stall vendors, we can catch up with all and sundry at the same time.

The atmosphere is sensational. Around the jumble of stalls, adults and kids colour the view, coffee and cooking aromas travel with the wind, and music gently drifts by in the air.

We are happy to be here. It’s impossible to shop quickly – particularly if one of the resident buskers like Peter Bargh starts to play his saxophone. For him, we’ll gravitate to a picnic bench to give him the time of day and a small thank you in his instrument box. It’s so laidback that, lest we miss out, we stiffen our resolve and get down to shopping for the real deal.

For many locals, the farmers’ market is an indispensable part of their week; with its sentiment and values reflecting their way of life. Defined as “those who eat locally”, these people are more interestingly referred to as locavores.

Chris Elphick and his partner Hazel Kirkham regularly travel from Picton to buy as much of their week’s food from the farmers’ market as possible. Chris says buying seasonal, fresh, locally-grown food means less transport energy is used. The couple believes it is important to support the local economy and to buy directly from growers. By doing this, their food is cheaper and fresher than when it’s passed through a number of middle people.

“We come to support small Marlborough producers and to have direct contact with them. It’s great when things come round like yummy cherries. As much of the produce at the farmers’ market is (at least) spray free, we aim for organic wherever possible. Plus it’s a good way to spend Sunday mornings – social and relaxed – and enjoy breakfast and coffee. With plenty of variety throughout the seasons, we eat whatever is available. And we believe that the more we shop here, the more local growers will be encouraged to try new things.”

“We purchase very little from supermarkets – just occasional hardware and processed foods, which we keep to a minimum. We still try to get most of those products from the local organic shop in Blenheim. Our aim is to not need a supermarket at all,” says Chris.

The idea of a Marlborough farmers’ market began in 2000 with an initiative spearheaded by Marlborough’s tourism marketing arm, Destination Marlborough. It sponsored Australian food writer and farmers’ market advocate Jane Adams to hold workshops and speak at a fundraising dinner. An enthusiastic founding committee (Chris Fortune, Charlie Jacobsen, Christina Mackay, Sandra Morritt, Geoff Swift, Bob and Jennie Crum and Stefan Browning) was subsequently formed.

A fact-finding trip to the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market, personally funded by Chris Fortune, Christina MacKay and Geoff Swift, ensued. On the recommendations of these so-named “three musketeers” (and the working model they had acquired), the Marlborough Farmers’ Market was inaugurated.

Tina Fortune is the manager of the Marlborough Farmers’ Market. Her partner, Chris Fortune, is the market’s breakfast chef, the chairman and an acknowledged driving force of the market since its inception. Tina recalls the early days when, of necessity, some committee members personally funded the market initiative to progress its development.

The market, now in its eighth year and seventh season, is regarded as one of the most progressive in the country. With strict operating guidelines for grower participation (to ensure the authenticity of the market and its produce), vendors are only permitted to sell primary produce, fresh food and value-added processed produce. The only exceptions are fresh-cut flowers and self-propagated plants, compost, natural fertiliser and worm farms.

Under these terms of engagement, the market presently sells organic fair trade coffee, breakfast food on potato plates, organic and processed meats, craft breads and baking, olive oils, nuts, seasonal berries and fruit, salad greens, herbs, saffron, vegetables, seedlings, flowers, mussels, crayfish, wild game, free-range eggs, cheese, goat’s milk, honey, wines, preserves, cordials and chutneys.

Tina says, “One of the key principles of a farmers’ market is for the consumer to have a direct relationship with the producer. So the stall must be operated by the producer or someone directly involved in production. When it comes to organics, any produce labelled as such must be certified under the Bio-Gro, Demeter or Certenz labels.”

Along with her other responsibilities, Tina’s job is to look after the stallholders, as well as oversee the information stall and the two breakfast tents, which she believes are the pulse of the market. She lists fun, family resonance and social interaction amongst her objectives.

“The picnic benches are purposely sited in the middle of the market for interaction and, I hope, for new Marlburians to relax and chat to locals. Oh… and to Nos Fletcher who is our market crier,” she adds with a laugh in her voice, “and Katrina Oliver – our very own quirky tales storyteller. She tells a very entertaining story about stone soup.”

“It’s all in our weekly newsletter, along with items urging people to think about what’s in their food – like where raw milk is coming from – and who to talk to around the stalls if they want to know more about specific subjects or concerns?”

Tina nurtures her stallholders; particularly new participants who often (as primary producers with little public interaction) find it a little daunting to engage in conversation. “We teach them to talk about their product, take ownership and be independent. From closed and shy, they blossom to open, confident, smiley people. We encourage them to socialise, and to attend our forums and barbecues. We even give an annual award for ‘stallholder of the season’.”

Sherrington Grange cheese maker Lisa Harper, her brother (beekeeper Rob Harper) and his wife (Sabine) work and live together as part of a family cooperative. Travelling from Mahau in the Pelorus Sound via Havelock to get their produce to market, they were keen to get home but allowed me a quick five-minute interview. In the telling, their passion took over and we were still talking 40 minutes later.

Lisa Harper, reeking of strong cheese in the afternoon heat, says coming to market is the highlight of her week. She has her regulars and is always happy to answer questions, provide cheese tastings and corrupt young three-year-old palates with an aged blue. She brings eight varieties, as well as seasonal cheeses when available.

Lisa applauds the market’s strict operating guidelines. “We need to protect our environment and our life balance. The free-trade agreement with China (and all that it entails) highlights the necessity for people to be more aware of the origin of their food. It’s just safer to buy locally,” she states. She loves the commitment shown and the idea of growers standing together behind their products.

Rod Harper sells high-grade manuka honey gathered from his 300 hives. He talks at length about the relationship between the placement of his hives and pollinating trees, and about the uniqueness of the product. “We’re selling a strained, unblended, straight-from-the-bee, completely natural honey. It has a different texture, inconsistencies, a strong flavour and a sharp aftertaste that reflects regional nuances (as opposed to, say, Coromandel manuka honey).”

“People buy it as a spread, to cook with or as a medicinal tonic. Increasingly, it’s being used for health reasons. Manuka honey has recognised anti-bacterial wound-healing properties for burns, he earnestly tells me. Encapsulating dried honey as a lozenge (produced locally in Havelock) is a new direction for us and we’re trialling the market response right here,” he enthuses.

Other growers also see value in exposing their products to locals and visitors for market research. Committed to the Marlborough Farmers’ Market from season one, Hilary Clere (from Tussock Garden & Olive Grove) talks up the virtues and uses of her six different varieties of extra virgin olive oil.

Hilary gives out recipes based around usage suggestions, offers tastings and explains why (in her opinion) extra virgin olive oil shouldn’t be heated – it defeats the purpose of cold pressing… “especially after all the trouble we’ve gone to”. She worries about the origins of imported olive oil, particularly Italian varieties.

Hilary loves swapping ideas and product with her fellow stallholders, and says that it’s all worth getting up early for each Sunday.

Riverina almond growers Graham Farnell and Gill Smith enjoy the market’s one-on-one interaction. With their home-engineered nut roaster in situ, giving off arresting caramel aromas, they’re committed to the farmers’ market concept.

They want to broaden people’s knowledge of how food is produced, and speak about the importance of a traceable food chain. “Discerning market goers want to know where their food’s come from… they’re entitled to know with all the imported, blended, cheap stuff coming into the country,” says Graham.

With a premium almond range that includes salt roasted, garlic chilli and candied nuts (harvested with an almond-tree shaker Graham engineered), almond oil, crunchy almond butter (made in yet another machine engineered by Graham) and its by-product, almond flour, they are a busy enterprise.

Chris and Tina Fortune’s working partnership at the market attracts high praise from many stallholders. They are seen to be approachable, calm and well organised. I’m told they arrive first and leave last, they’re keen and they’re enthusiastic, which is evident in their friendliness and the calibre of the stallholders they attract.

As a chef, Chris talks on Radio New Zealand National, and mentions products and promotes the market in his The Marlborough Express cooking column. Respected for his leadership on a bigger scale, as chairman of the National Farmers’ Market Federation (which he, Jennie Crum and Ian Thomas founded), he’s also outspoken on issues that touch his heart and philosophy.

There’s no getting away from the work Chris has undertaken on behalf of, and in support of, farmers’ markets both locally and nationally… or the sphere his influence. He sits on the committee of the newly-formed local Slow Food convivium (seeing it as the retail arm of farmers’ markets as it satisfies consumers who want to understand and experience local food production). He’s also a judge for the Cuisine Artisan Awards, which recognise the efforts of talented artisan food and beverage producers.

As a self-checking process, Chris has entered the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards. He won recognition three times for the Marlborough Farmers’ Market and its contribution to the community.

As the regular market breakfast chef, Chris mentors the young kids he employs – teaching them about food and life skills on the job. Fifteen-year-old Alex Judd has worked on breakfast preparation and cooking since he was 10, starting as dish boy and sausage turner before progressing on to omelettes, caramelised figs and the like.

Alex has saved for a car and will drive himself to the market this season. He believes he’s learnt a lot and intends to continue his chef training when he leaves school, as well as study business management.

Chris says he appreciates the big picture and realises it’s important to think ahead… to pass on what he has learnt and become an open source of information for others to utilise.

This year, the Farmers’ Market New Zealand annual conference was held in Blenheim. The opening speaker, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley, said she sees farmers’ markets as part of the antidote to rising food prices, and praised farmers’ markets as a “diversified, low-carbon food economy, where dependence was reduced on oil and global food prices”.

With 42 farmers’ markets around New Zealand, seven defined market regions will now be formed for networking purposes and to provide the best locations from which New Zealand food producers can sell.

There are many other matters that also need to be considered. To ensure a positive future, the authenticity of farmers’ markets must be protected – particularly from supermarkets that are trying to win back customers by emulating home-grown visual effects found at farmers’ markets. And the buy-local initiative, with member contributions being equalled by the government, will culminate in a national promotion of farmers’ markets in February/March 2009.

Looking to the market’s future, Tina Fortune says she’s still got a few ideas in the oven. With an attendance of over 3,000 (and rising each Sunday), she says it’s evident that farmers’ markets are increasingly becoming a focus of community life – reflecting the food of the region. Perhaps a year-round market for stallholders whose livelihoods depended on it could be on the cards… or a Thursday market held in The Forum during winter.

Tina and her committee are also keen to support initiatives such as schools’ educational involvement in edible gardens. “Perhaps we’ll plant one outside the A&P Showgrounds… under our farmers’ market sign,” she suggests with a smile.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Marlborough Farmers Markets

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

MUSSEL MUSSEL MUSSEL MUSSEL

The New Zealand greenshell mussel is world famous everywhere but home. In France it is know as the Moule verte de Nouvelle Zelande, in Germany it is the Neuseelandische Gruene Muschel, and in Italy it is the Mitilo.
What is it about this very abundant Marlborough product that does not make it the top of the list for the dinner table?
Is it because it is too cheap? If you were picking your seafood dinner tonight, it would always feature after the scallops and the oysters and clams that we also find in Marlborough's pristine waters.
While they grow wild around our coastline, it is farmed greenshell mussels that are firmly established as New Zealand's largest seafood export. With the recent tightening of purse strings, the humble and tasty mussel has found its way back on to our dinner table as we try to make each dollar stretch further.
For such little creatures they pack a real punch, both in terms of what they contribute to our aquaculture industry and what they eat. A mussel eats tiny sea creatures called plankton and things like algae, and will get its food from the seawater by sucking it in and filtering out all the tiny bits of food as it spits the water out again.
We are told to drink 2.5 litres of water a day, but the little mussel has to suck in and spit out about 350 litres – about five good-sized bathtubs of water – every day!
My favourite recipe for mussels is steamed open in the shell, served with crusty bread and bowls of water and lemon to clean your fingers with. These are shared at the table and are accompanied by loud slurps as you soak up the last of the juice.
If you want something a little more refined, present them in the shell with just a touch of class – it all depends on what you want to achieve at the end of the day.
For mussels the fancy way, take each cooked mussel, wrap a strip of cucumber around it, dress with a little saffron aioli and garnish with chives.
SAFFRON AIOLI
3 cloves Marlborough garlic, peeled
1 tsp Marlborough salt
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp warm water
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 pinches of saffron, crushed with a little salt and added to warm water
1 cup grapeseed oil
1/3 cup Marlborough extra virgin olive oil (if you make it with 100 per cent New Zealand olive oil, it is too strong in olive and acidic flavours)
To make the aioli, sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of the salt and smash it into a paste with the side of a cook's knife. Whisk all the ingredients except the oil, then slowly drizzle in the oil until thick and creamy.
STEAMED GREENSHELL MUSSELS
This is my favourite method, and the best way to eat live mussels. Make sure the mussels are closed tightly to ensure freshness. Serve in a large bowl with small finger bowls of water. Enjoy!
100g onions
20g garlic
60ml white wine vinegar
150ml extra virgin olive oil 1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
4 tsp picked chervil
48 live Marlborough greenshell mussels, cleaned and debearded
100ml Marlborough sauvignon blanc
Sweat (cook without colour) finely chopped onion and garlic in 2 tsp of olive oil for 5 minutes. Add vinegar and reduce by half. Add olive oil.
Place the mussels and 100ml of sauvignon blanc in a large pot with a lid. Put on to a hot element and cook until the mussels open. Shake the pot every couple of minutes to ensure even cooking. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
Toss the onions over the top and serve in a bowl with crusty bread and lemon or lime wedges.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

MasterChef joins judging panel in search for country’s top gourmet oil | Masterchef New Zealand | News | Throng

MasterChef joins judging panel in search for country’s top gourmet oil | Masterchef New Zealand | News | Throng

Entries are now open for the New Zealand Gourmet Oil Competition, with New Zealand’s first ever MasterChefwinner Brett McGregor joining the judging panel. Organised by the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association and held in conjunction with the Canterbury A&P Show, the competition celebrates the success, quality and variety of New Zealand’s gourmet oils,

The New Zealand Gourmet Oil Competition, now in its seventh year, is open to New Zealand produced Olive Oil including classes for Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Delicate, Medium and Intense plus classes for Walnut Oil, Hazelnut Oil and Avocado Oil.

Oils will be judged by a panel of independent food industry experts including 2009 MasterChef Brett McGregor, Senior CPIT Tutor of Professional Cookery Bill Bryce, Nik Mavromatis from Mediterranean Food Company plus leading chefs and industry identities Trish Coleman, Chris Fortune and Jonny Schwass.

The aim of the New Zealand Gourmet Oil Competition is to promote to the New Zealand public the quality and variety of oils produced and commercially available in New Zealand.

“On my return to New Zealand there seemed to be an abundance of quality ingredients and our beautiful olive oil is no exception. Fresh, delicious and fruity it now rates with the best from around the world. It is amazing that we have a competitive oil industry that really is still in its infancy”, commented McGregor.

The winner of the 2009 Best In Show, judged best overall from all Gold medal winners, was an Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced by Creekside Olive Estate in Marlborough.

Entries close 5pm Friday 29 October with winners announced on Wednesday 3 November 2010. Winning oils will be on display at the Canterbury A&P Show in the Food & Wine NZ Pavilion.

The Canterbury A&P Show runs from 10-12 November at Canterbury Agricultural Park Christchurch. Attracting on average 110,000 people, over 7000 livestock and feature competition entries and 600 trade exhibitors, plus three full days of entertainment, it is the largest Agricultural and Pastoral Show in the country.