What a great day I had last week with a bus load of foodies as we traveled around Pukekohe visiting growers and packers of supermarket and food service veges. Vegetables.co.nz organised a great day for nationwide chefs / food writers/ uni and technical institutes and the Woman’s Weekly Food Editor!
First stop was Status near Tuakau – they are the largest tomato growers in nz (their main brand is Beekist) and what an incredible production unit they have – in the high season they produce 300 tonne and house 650,000 plants. They grow 15 different varieties all year around. Each tomato has a 1 year cycle and a single plant can grow up to 17 metres long. In perfect conditions they grow 1 ½ foot a week! I thought it was fascinating they were pollinated with bumble bees which grow 3-4 times the size of a regular bee. I applaud their use of only natural garlic sprays and the clever use of heated water pipes, co2 and rain water harvesting.
Next was Fresh Connection and Fresh link – these guys pre-pack and portion vegetables for the supermarkets and hospitality industry. It was amazing to watch the heavily hygiene clad staff work their magic on pumpkins, root veges and sorting mesclun and greens etc. They specialise in peeling, cutting, mixing and portion controlled mixes – everything was done to precise standards and under strict health and safety guidelines. They have a great system with their water and waste products giving back to the environment and composting.
We stopped at the gorgeous Bracu restaurant for an amazing lunch by award winning chef Mikey Newlands – Garden beignets with cabbage, broccoli, borage and green tomato honey. Baked potato skins, truffle & onion mousse, spiced gazpacho, mustard ice-cream just for starters! Then hay baked chicken with kale, kohlrabi and smoked Perla potatoes. But it was the dessert that was most intriguing … caramelised tomato with 12 flavours and basil sorbet! It was divine and the texture and presentation of the tomato a delight.
Fully satisfied we went on to the home of the Perla potato – A.S Wilcox – (no I am not closely related but wish I was!) I loved hearing about their crop rotation, the planting of mustard and grain crops mulched back in to feed the soil and watching the high tech plant in operation was an eye opener. Freshly dug, jiggled about a quick wash and in the bags. A very impressive operation.
And I got a box of Perlas – so home it was, to create a Pukekohe inspired salad (recipe at end).
R.C.Hari was our last stop – from seeing the perfect baby plant seedlings, harvested crops that were in the ground less than an hour ago, to watching the gentle grading and washing, packed, metal detector scanned and chilled, it’s a matter of mere hours.
It was great to see these large scale operations in progress, each one dedicated to looking after the environment, with happy staff and impressive hygiene standards.
Thanks to vegetables.co.nz for organising such an informative and enjoyable event.
Jo’s Pukekohe inspired salade
Sweet & juicy Status tomatoes
Fresh salad greens
New season’s delicate red onions
Top with some Rosemary-infused EV Olive oil (I grabbed mine from Bracu), a squeeze of lemon, crumble over some feta and a few chopped herbs.