The beautiful Beerwah valley is the home of Sandy Creek Organic Farm a wonderful mixed farm that grows and sells fruit, nuts and vegetables through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) system. Les Nicholls moved from a small farm in Glasshouse, to the fertile soils at the base of the Glasshouse Mountains in Beerwah 7 years ago. He saw it as the perfect location to grow a variety of fruit and vegetables throughout the season to service a growing membership base of over 100 Sunshine Coast based members where every week they receive a box of goodies grown from the farm.
Les and his partner, Marji wanted to create an organic farm that was sustainable, efficient and time effective for everyone. Essentially the system that they have created is a ‘meeting of the consumer and the producer’ which is the ethos behind CSA systems, and everything else they do is designed around what people eat and what is seasonally available.
The farm adapts its produce to cater to the season, which has seen Les explore less traditional seed stocks to find varieties that suits the climate and varying seasons. While the summer season brings okra, corn, capsicum, tomatoes, and Egyptian spinach or malakhu, winter focuses more on root crops such as radishes and turnips as well as other winter favouring crops; cabbages, broccoli, snow peas etc. The Queensland summer doesn’t suit a lot of traditional greens so that is where some of the Asian greens such as pak choy and tat soi come in; they are not traditional but are more suited to our subtropical climate.
Staples such as potatoes will weather the winter well but stocks come to an end in January, so crops are substituted with sweet potatoes; that carries them through to when potatoes again have more favourable growing conditions. In the same way Les uses several varieties of carrot to carry them through the season, using a less traditional, more heat tolerant variety to carry them through the summer months – while the varieties used are less traditional in a modern mass cropping sense – it is traditional in its truest form; back to seasonal cropping systems – the way it is supposed to be. It allows you to actually taste the difference of the season, which is especially true in winter when the slower growth rate of all the produce allows it to develop a better, greater flavour than that it would have in the much faster growing summer months.
Now, if you would like enjoy Sandy Creek Organic Farm’s fabulous certified organic produce this is how it works:
- Download Membership Form
- Become a member and then every week you can pick up your box of goodies from the farm.
If you are not from the Beerwah area, get together with friends and organise a pick up car pool, or call Les and he will let you know if there are any pick up points in your area, or even better create your own pick up point so your area can be serviced as well.
Each box contains a liberal combination of vegetables, depending on seasonality it can include potatoes, sweet potatoes, cooking greens and vegetables (beans, snow peas, pak choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots etc), salad vegetables (lettuce varieties, tomatoes, cucumbers etc), fruit, herbs, ginger, turmeric – whatever is currently in season. It is fabulous value – I defy anyone to be able to shop for organic produce and pay less than this for the generous selection that you get.
For anyone who is passionate about good, fresh and local food, I encourage you to explore this fabulous way of buying fresh fruit and vegetables. What I find especially great, is this system of purchasing encourages you to eat seasonally, something you tend to lose sight of when you purchase from stores due to the over-availability of out of season produce bought in from elsewhere.
For more information about Sandy Creek Organic Farm, membership and pick up locations contact:
Sandy Creek Organic Farm
2471 Old Gympie Road, Beerwah. 4519
Ph. 07 5496 9501 Email: email@example.com
I am sure you have all spotted a Pitaya, or Dragonfruit as they are more commonly known, and perhaps curiosity has had the better of you and you may even have tried one. They are a strange looking hot pink waxy skinned fruit, with a vivid claret or white flesh sprinkled throughout with what looks a little like black sesame seeds.
Red Fox Pitaya’s have been growing Dragon Fruit at their plantation in East Nanango for five years and to me it was where I could first really appreciate the beauty of this unusual fruit that is almost something of an aberration considering not only its appearance, but the way in which it is grown.
The fruit is product of a member of the cactus family, an epiphytic vine that produces stems up to 7 meters in length that, in the ordered structure of a plantation, are trained up posts to spill out a canopy from which the fruit hangs; it almost gives the appearance of a topiary standard. Left to their own devices, the vines will happily find their way up trees or any other random structure it may find in its quest for sunlight.
The spectacular flower buds can appear as early as October and will often continue right through to May, with the main flowering happening in early January. The flowering is almost an event in itself as they only open for one night which spurred the idea for Bernice Danahay from Red Fox Pitayas to open her plantation to the public for evening visits during the main flowering periods. The flamboyant white flowers begin to burst open as early as 4pm and by 9pm have reached their full beauty – beauty enhanced by the fairylights and moonlight that give the gardens and translucent flowers an almost ethereal ambience. After one night of glory they start to close with the sun’s rays upon them, but not before the bee’s have had their share. After 30 days the dragon fruit is ready to pick but they can stay on the vine for up to another 15 days.
The fruit itself is vividly spectacular in its appearance. It is often described as having a melon like taste, but I personally think that the red fleshed fruit tastes more like a cross between raspberries and kiwi fruit, while the white fleshed fruit will be more that of just a kiwi fruit. I will say, that while I have had many Dragon Fruit that have been bursting with flavour, there has been the odd occasion, when purchased in a supermarket, where the flavour has been completely the lack there of. If this has been the case, don’t be discouraged, just chose your source more carefully.
From a visual perspective you will want to use the Dragon Fruit in dishes where you can show of its vibrancy, as in salads or garnishes but it would look absolutely fabulous as the feature fruit on a pavlova or fruit flan. Gourmet delight I say, they are wonderful chilled and eaten with ice-cream or fresh out of hand just like a kiwi fruit, great flavouring for smoothies or drinks, jams and pastries. They freeze well and make the most wonderful sorbets and they are packed with vitamin C and high in antioxidants – what more could you want from a fruit!
Red Fox Pitaya’s Gardens are open by appointment but if you are planning on visiting, check with Bernice to see when they are flowering and make it an evening visit if you can as it is definitely worth the trip.
Red Fox Pitayas
27 Calvert Rd
Nanango 4615 Queensland
Phone: 07 4163 2040
Fax: 07 4163 2070
Tours – Open Days By Appointment 10.00.a.m – 4.00.p.m.
There are those among us that would insist that flowers belong in vases at the dinner table rather than in the meal itself and while flowers do add a certain interest to a table arrangement, the interest for me is in the dish. There are dozens of edible flowers that can make their appearance in dishes in a variety of ways; garnish, essence, crystalised, etc. Zucchini flowers are especially interesting in that while they are often simply used as a garnish, shredded or whole, they often comprise the dish itself.
Zucchini flowers are, as the name suggests, the vibrant yellow flower of the zucchini plant. The zucchini belonging to the Curcurbia genus along with pumpkin, squash (zucchini is Italian for ‘little squash’), marrows and edible gourds.
Zucchini flowers often make their appearance at markets while in season and you may have noticed that there are two different types. One with a long narrow stem (the male) and one with an actual zucchini in its infancy attached (the female). Both are edible.
On the Sunshine Coast, Hinterland Zucchini Flowers’ Kim Jago has found her own niche market by growing zucchini flowers at her Landsborough* property. She grows them specifically for restaurants that consider the flower a delicacy, in turn concocting delicious recipes that feature the flowers in infinite ways. Stuffing the flower is probably the most popular way in which they are served. Stuffings vary from the traditional ricotta based ones to more eclectic mixes with cous cous or prawns or the more delicate flesh of the spanner crab, but the choices don’t stop there. Once stuffed, they are then either sautéed lightly or tempura battered and fried. Cooking times are minimal to retain the delicacy of the flower.
Kim planted over 3,500 plants on their 7.5 hectare property, only a half a hectare of which is planted. The growing season is at its peak from April to December where the plants flower prolifically producing a new flower every three to four days. The flowers are laboriously handpicked, by Kim usually in the early hours of the morning when the flowers are fresh, while most of us are still sleeping.
While you are bound to come across zucchini flowers at the markets when they are in season, if you would like a more assured supply, the flowers can be bought directly from Hinterland Zucchini Flowers or one of the many suppliers that they retail to.
Hinterland Zucchini Flowers
Ph. 0421 217 565
Wholesale enquiries welcome. Visit by appointment only.
*Please note – Hinterland Zucchini Flowers has recently relocated to Beerburrum.
Authentic, fresh and local, that is what Palato Gelato’s Natalie and Gianmaria (Jimmy) Morelli are passionate about when it comes to the gelato that they have been receiving so much acclaim for. Silver medals for their Pistachio, Chocolate and Double Roast Macadamia flavours from the DIA (Dairy Industry Association) as well as silvers for their Chocolate and Mango flavours at the recent Ekka (RNA) and Bronzes for their Passionfruit, Mocha and Coconut.
Going that step further has paid off for them; their gelatos are so fabulous because their passion has made them look at the whole element of gelato production, not just the end result. They take great care to source produce locally from equally passionate producers, often taking inspiration from seasonal availability of raw products which see the list of flavours continually expanding and contracting in harmony to what is available and in season.
It is now Palato Gelato’s 3rd year, and while there have been ‘teething’ problems, Natalie celebrates the fact that they have reached their ‘toddler’ status, the awards giving them recognition amongst the difficulties of any start up business. Jimmy (Gianmaria) has had almost 30 years of experience as a chef, bringing a whole new dimension of understanding to gelato making, and is especially passionate about maintaining Italian traditions which led to his involvement as a founding member of IT Chefs which is a global organisation that acts as kind of guardian/forum dedicated to maintaining authenticity of traditional Italian dishes. Palato Gelato recently showcased their gelatos as part of the IT Chefs La Vita è Dolce dinners designed to promote the ‘sweet end of the meal’ experience.
They operate from Belmondo’s in Noosa, which allows them to see new seasonal produce as it comes in and offers them interaction with other industry people; chefs and restaurateurs which has led to them developing some fabulous flavours that have gone on to be focal points of many Sunshine Coast dessert menus for which they were specifically designed.
Sweet Basil, the feature of the recent Q150 dinner, Lemon Myrtle, Fig and Cinnamon, a Yoghurt Gelato (Is) and a spectacular Tequila Sorbet (Parq Food) are just some of the magical flavours that have featured on these menus, there was even a recent bout of experimentation that resulted in a Bloody Mary inspired Tomato Sorbet!
Natalie explains that gelato is an essential part of Italian culture; you can’t have a meal without gelato and it is something that you would take to a dinner as one would bring a bottle of wine. While gelato maintains a traditional base recipe, innovators such as Palato Gelato may well push the boundaries and try many wonderful new twists to the traditional, but they never stray too far from the fundamentals. Additionally gelato is not just the sweet grand finale to a meal – it can be the starter, a course or even a palate cleanser in between; flavours, ingredients and seasonality, the determining factors.
Finally Palato Gelato extend their passion to the environment believing that it is something that every business has to consider; to consider what they are using and what they are leaving behind. So, conscious of their own water consumption in the making of gelato, they set about recycling the water used in the cooling systems, a substantial cost to the business, but one they consider important in lowering their own carbon footprint. This, along with low food miles (they source their produce locally wherever possible) and their environmentally friendly packaging (for which they have also won awards) sees them as conscientious business operators that have created a product that is not only fabulous but a great representation of the Sunshine Coast, the sea, the sunshine and a little bit of Italy.
Palato Gelato is available from the Noosa Farmers’ Market, both Wednesday and Saturday’s Eumundi Markets, Jan Power’s Powerhouse Markets in New Farm as well as at retailers Belmondo’s, Mia Cucina and Grubb & Co. Other than that you can find them at many of the major events on the Sunshine Coast; Noosa Classic Car Show, Caloundra Music Festival and the Noosa Triathlon, just some of the events you will see them at soon.
PO Box 2349, Noosa Heads, 4567
Ph. 0404 790 075 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org