Best of the best NSW produce

Prime yields: cool-climate apples.Many years ago, wheat farmer Doug Cush was in Italy selling wheat. When a buyer for one of the large pasta manufacturers asked him where he was from, Cush told him somewhere between Narrabri and Moree in the north-west of NSW.
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”Aah, Bellata,” said the Italian buyer.

”How could he have known that?” Cush says. ”Bellata is tiny. There’s only 400 people in the district and 100 people in town, and that’s probably an exaggeration.”

What the Italian buyer knew about this small Australian farming community was that it produced some of the world’s best durum wheat.

Northern NSW is prime hard wheat-growing country. With a gluten count of between 40 and 50 per cent – much higher than soft wheat used in bread and biscuit-making – hard wheat is the key to good pasta.

Cush would never have contemplated growing anything else. ”What you aim to do as a farmer is look to the land and climate,” he says. ”We don’t try to grow biscuit flour because the climate here is wrong.”

NSW abounds with places that have become synonymous with the food grown there. Mention Bilpin or Batlow and you’ll get ”apples” in response. These cool-climate growing areas, along with Orange in the NSW central west, make NSW the second-highest apple producer in the country after Victoria. (Who knew we produce more apples than Tasmania, the Apple Isle?)

When it comes to potatoes you’re talking Dorrigo on the Northern Tablelands and Robertson in the Southern Highlands.

”Go into any fruit and vegetable shop on the east coast of NSW and the best looking potato on the shelf will be a Robertson potato,” says John Hill, Robertson potato farmer.

Like all farmland close to Sydney, Robertson has come under intense pressure from rising land prices and over the years the number of potato growers has fallen from 40 to three. With 60 hectares under cultivation, the Hill family – three generations are involved in the farm – is the largest grower in the district.

At the other end of the spectrum is Norman Gair, who decided 10 years ago to stay small and grow exclusively for farmers’ markets. He and partner Robyn Jackson grow 42 varieties of potato on their Robertson farm, including Toolangi delights and Otway reds.

”The iron-rich ferrosols that you find in Robertson have the advantage of a fine microstructure that doesn’t impede growth or drainage,” says Damien Field, senior lecturer at Sydney University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Environment. ”It’s a soil prized for potato production.”

Think milk and the south coast immediately springs to mind. ”Dairy cows originated out of places like Jersey and Guernsey,” Picton dairy farmer John Fairley says. ”They do better in cool climates. Which is not to say you can’t dairy farm anywhere else, but the south coast has traditionally done well in dairying. They have the climate, regular rainfall and good pasture.”

When Ridley Bell relocated from Victoria to northern NSW in 1979, it was in search of the ideal combination of rich soil and subtropical climate to grow blueberries. He found it at Lindenvale, between Lismore and Ballina, and thereby introduced a new horticulture industry to the region.

In the 1970s there was a lot of change in what was formerly dairy and pork country. Plantings of other new crops, such as avocado and macadamias, were greeted with scepticism. But decades on, both industries have proved themselves.

”There are very few places in Australia, or even the world, that have the all-important combination of subtropical weather, high rainfall, warm winter temperature and rich volcanic soil,” says Martin Brook, who, with his wife Pam, founded Brookfarm macadamia farm. The Brooks selected a property near Byron Bay and, with an understandable bias, believe the region produces the best-tasting nuts.

Another fairly recent horticultural innovation in Australia is the olive, which grows well in NSW.

”The regions growing olives don’t stop at borders,” says olive grower Robert Armstrong, from Crookwell, on the west-facing slopes of the Great Diving Range.

With about 30,000 hectares devoted to olives, Australia is a minnow compared with the world’s biggest oil producers, Spain and Italy, Armstrong says. But it’s the flavour and freshness of the oils produced here that counts. Armstrong credits the cold Crookwell nights for the robust flavours found in his Alto olives and oil.

Cold nights and frost are essential to growing good raspberries, which is why they do so well in the Southern Highlands.

Nicki and David Penn have been growing raspberries on their Cuttaway Creek farm near Mittagong since 2002. ”Dave’s father used to buy raspberries from this farm to make jam that he would bring to Sydney when he visited us,” says Nicki Penn.

What they don’t sell during the fresh raspberry season (February-March), they turn into vinegar, jams and sauces. All have picked up awards at the Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart Fine Food shows, testament to the quality of the raw ingredients and Nicki’s skill in the kitchen.

Jenny Bradley, a lamb grower from Armatree, north of Dubbo, is a member of the longest-running producer-owned co-operative in Australia, the Tooraweenah Prime Lamb Marketing Co-operative. She believes anywhere is lamb country. Along with beef farming, lamb producing has a long and proud history in NSW.

Peter Strelitz of Milly Hill Lamb agrees: ”We do lamb well throughout NSW – New England, Cowra, Wellington.”

Both producers cite genetics, management of soil and pasture and animal welfare as integral to producing good-quality lambs.

And what about seafood? The New South Wales coast, says consultant John Susman from Fisheads Seafood Strategy, is home to the oyster he considers the greatest on the planet, the Sydney rock. ”It’s unique in that it is grown all along the coast yet tastes different because it reflects the growing conditions in each region.”

Also on Susman’s most-wanted list are king prawns from northern NSW – close to the continental shelf where prawns thrive in the cold, deep water – along with school prawns and the eastern rock lobster.Outstanding in the field

Apples

From Batlow, Bilpin and Orange

Try Mirrabooka Farm, orangeapples爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Blueberries

From Coffs Harbour and Northern Rivers

Try Mountain Blue Farms, mountainblue爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Durum wheat

From Bellata

Try Bellata Gold durum wheat flour and semolina, bellatagold爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Hazelnuts

From Mudgee and Orange

Try Australian Gourmet Hazelnuts, gourmethazelnuts爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Lamb

From all over – New England, Cowra, Wellington and the north-west

Try Milly Hill Lamb, millyhill爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Macadamia nuts

From Northern Rivers and Nambucca

Try Jelbonleigh Estate, jelbonleigh爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Milk

From South Coast

Try Tilba Real Milk, southcoastcheese爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Olive oil

From all over – Crookwell, Mudgee, Forbes

Try Rylstone Olive Press olive oil, rylstoneolivepress爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Potatoes

From Robertson and Dorrigo

Try Highland Gourmet Potatoes. See Norm and Robyn at Pyrmont Growers’ Market

Raspberries

From cool climates such as Southern Highlands and Orange

Try Cuttaway Creek Raspberry Farm, cuttawaycreek爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Sydney rock oysters

From Tweed Heads to Merimbula

Try Tathra Oysters, tathraoysters爱杭州同城论坛m.au

Truffles

From Jindabyne, Southern Highlands and central west

Try Lowes Mount Truffiere, lowesmounttruffles爱杭州同城论坛m.au

You can explore the best of NSW produce at the NSW Food and Wine Festival – nswfoodandwine爱杭州同城论坛m.au.