GOODIES FROM THE GORGE
Opposite Georgetown Wines on the Kawarau Gorge, this small sunny plot of land produces astonishing volumes of top organic produce. Known mostly for their berries (I hear angels sing every time I eat one of their boysenberries), they also do gnarly-shaped heirloom tomatoes, jersey benne potatoes, figs, asparagus, and any number of other treats that have to be grabbed during the brief window between them becoming available and being sold out. Raeward Fresh stocks a selection of their produce in its organic section.
CARDRONA MERINO LAMB
Unfairly to all other breeds of sheep, not only do merinos produce the finest, warmest wool, they also seem to produce the best meat — dark, finely grained and not too fatty. When they’re raised just down the road, on the alpine grasses found in the pristine high country around Cardrona Valley, you get something magical. It’s the best lamb I’ve tasted and the only kind I use in my restaurants. You can get hold of it in Auckland, from any branch of Farro Fresh.
DAM GOOD FRUIT
Named after the nearby Clyde dam, Dam Good Fruit (also known as Glenvale Orchards) grow just that. Otago is rightly famed for its stonefruit, and these guys are part of the reason why — their fruit is ripened on the tree until ready to eat for maximum flavour. The apricots, nectarines and plums are all excellent, but it’s the cherries that will really blow you away. They grow an astonishing 18 varieties of cherry to provide a continous season from early December to late February, and they’re all delicious. Keep an eye open for their roadside stalls in both Arrowtown and Queenstown.
For those with the energy to get out among it (and that’s what Queenstown is all about) there are plenty of tasty treats waiting to be plucked from trees, bushes and streams. During the gold rush, the more optimistic miners built stone cottages and planted fruit trees to keep them going during the coming years of busy fortune-seeking. The cottages may now be ruins, but the fruit trees are still going strong even though they’re untended. Fruit canes such as redcurrants and raspberries are also thriving. Marjoram grows wild along many of Queenstown’s paths, and thyme is so prolific in Gibbston and Bannockburn that when it blossoms, whole hillsides turn purple. Then there are mushrooms, watercress, elderberries, walnuts, chestnuts, rosehips, rowanberries… Whatever the season there’s always something good to be found, if you’re prepared to put in the effort and keep your eyes open.
TONY THE ROCKET MAN
Tony is well-known to Queenstown chefs, often seen at kitchen doors with muddy boots and a bag full of produce picked just 20 minutes ago. His mainstay is a nutty and peppery rocket that is so superior to the bagged version that “Tony’s rocket” is proudly named on menus across town. He will also occasionally announce the brief availability of some other seasonal vegetable (such as snow peas and courgette flowers) that you’d be well-advised to take. Sadly, he only sells direct to restaurants, so keep an eye on local menus if you want to try the fruits of his labour.
This article originally appeared in Viva Magazine.