Even though I came late to the month-long challenge – think last week! – I’ve really enjoyed having to focus on Eating Locally. New Zealand, and especially Canterbury, is a particularly good place to be doing this.
Earlier this year I interviewed Tina Duncan, who has a catering business, runs cookery classes and is also one of the founders of the international food and wine masterclass Savour New Zealand. She said that one of the reasons for locating Savour NZ in Christchurch was because of the great local produce that comes from Canterbury. “Once we discovered we could make great wine then the emergence of boutique producers followed on because they’re all part of the industry,” said Tina during our chat.
“You want the olives to go with the wine and the olive oils are just getting better and better. We’re growing the best saffron in the world here in Canterbury and we’re making fantastic wasabi. We just wanted to celebrate the fact that we’ve such wonderful produce.” Wine, olives, olive oil, saffron and wasabi are only the tip of the food iceberg produced in Canterbury and during the interview Tina pointed out that this area can rightly be called the pantry of New Zealand.
Here are a few of the local producers in the Canterbury region that I’ve come across:
Based in Waipara, North Canterbury, the Clausen family produce award-winning olive oil as well as a gorgeous extra virgin olive oil lavender soap.
Barrys Bay Cheese
Cheesemakers near the French town of Akaroa.
NZ Bio Grains Ltd
An Ashburton mill which supplies organically grown grains, flours, pulses, nuts to Piko, my local wholefood shop. Their Stoneground Organic Wholemeal Flour is especially good for Brown Bread.
Amazingly tasty wasabi paste grown and processed in Canterbury. Much nicer than anything you’ll ever have tasted with your sushi. Most wasabi pastes are apparently adulterated with horseradish.
Eight Moon Saffron
Beautiful stigmas of saffron – the most expensive spice in the world, apparently – are harvested by the wonderful Errol Hitt who also makes saffron infused honey, chocolates and marinades.
And that’s not to mention the people that sell at the markets in English Park and Riccarton Racecourse. I also have high hopes for this weekend’s Lyttelton Farmers Market.
As you can see, shopping locally wasn’t too much of a challenge for me here. In Ireland, where the vast majority of fruit and vegetables are imported it might be a different story. If I’m back in Dublin this time next year it would be interesting to try the 2006 Eat Local Challenge.
Since I arrived in New Zealand, I have more time and less money than I had in Ireland. This has meant that I’ve made more of an effort to patronise the small local stores rather than the big, supposedly convenient, supermarkets. I’ve seen butchers and greengrocers fall by the wayside in Ireland and would hate to see that happening here. My week of Eating Locally definitely accentuated my efforts to use small local producers – all in all, a very enjoyable experience. Thanks Jen!