At the age of 11, David White found himself wandering the summer fields of Yorkshire with not much to do. His father had recently been made redundant and so their low cost holiday consisted simply of a caravan parked in the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, a perfect escape from the heavy industrial city of Leeds for two weeks. As David followed his fancy through the trees and paddocks, he came upon a kind of ‘Darling Buds of May’ farm, complete with two wonderful old ladies, their cow Daisy and heaps to do for a young boy. David learned to milk the cow, feed turkeys, stook hay in old fashioned ricks, all accompanied with home made lemonade and cakes for afternoon tea in the middle of an orchard. At this point he fell in love with the land and its culture.
From here on, David had always wanted to farm a plot of land but this seemed out of reach in the UK. So, 44 years ago David the young man, emigrated to North Canterbury and bought a small one acre plot. He worked in advertising while studying at night about soil science and horticulture from a professor at Lincoln College. His experiences as a child drew him to more organic methods and so it became natural for David to collect seaweed from nearby beaches to fertilize his land. 15 years on, the restless farmer moved to Dunedin and in turn bought two much larger plots including a farm in Strath Taieri and at Blueskin Bay where he continued working in marketing whilst farming sheep and cattle and a wide variety of plants, again, following his fancy.
Continuing to follow his heart, David met Jeni in 2001 and on a whim, they looked around Cromwell for some land to buy. Jeni had deep family connections in Otago and so with spade in tow, David looked at various places until he shovelled up a better looking clump of soil at what is now Goodies from the Gorge. The land had laid fallow for a long time, being fed only by years of natural weathering, decaying foliage, and subsequently growing richer with nutrients. The plot also had beautifully established European Plum and Cherry Plum trees with a rolling aspect a few hundred meters into the Kawarau Gorge on the road to Queenstown. At the time, the land looked "like an absolute wilderness", but David saw through the thick briar, broken trees, and long grass and knew this was the place. At the young age of 60 then, he started building retaining walls, laid irrigation pipes, built a foundation on which to place a house rescued from Christchurch well prior to the earthquake.
David had read an article in the Otago Southland Farmer about blueberries and knew the climate and soil at Goodies would be perfect. He and Jeni travelled to England to visit the oldest blueberry farm in the UK, then to Australia, speaking with farmers to better understand this little blue wonder. He also thought that after a few years and growing to 2 meters in height, blueberries would be the perfect plant to harvest for a 70 year old. A little while later, a friend from Nelson asked if David would rescue some of his family's 60 year old raspberry plants, of which only twelve were left. Six survived and this rare old breed yielded a bright sweet flavour which David has now cultivated into a large crop featuring regularly on menus at resorts like Blanket Bay, Matakauri Lodge and many high quality restaurants.
David's fancy has served him well as he continued to grow the Goodies repertoire by adding two varieties of boysenberry, a red, black and a luminous white currant, figs, pears, black doris plums, elder flowers (for their own cordial), quince and many interesting and more unusual vegetables including elephant garlic, sugar snap peas and rouge pumpkins. The list goes on, as does David's curiosity and ingenuity. He remains deeply committed to organic methods which includes getting horse manure from a local friend who runs dressage horses, and grape pressings from a local winery - which helps boost the pH acidity balance for his blueberries. He and Jeni often work up to 15 hour days picking berries and maintaining irrigation while Jeni meticulously packs the berries and prepares vegetables to classical music and packs for daily couriers for which they often need to be up by 5:30am. This hard working couple could run circles around the average IT hipster.
Before leaving Goodies from the Gorge, Jeni loads me up with a few of her famous jars of goodies, including a tomatillo salsa - the best I've had outside of California - a cherry jam, a jar of raspberry preserve and a few heads of elephant garlic; all side projects from the farm which also comes from her passion for food (and her catering background). As I wander towards my car, I pass a local chef showing his family around the blueberries, all of them sampling and smiling along the way. And then there's David, tinkering under the rotary hoe attached to the tractor. He emerges to say goodbye and tells me he's always appreciated Nathan and Angela's approach to selling his berries at the Mediterranean Market. "They don’t haggle us down on price" he tells me, and that he thinks they're one of the few places in the region that really understand the price of growing the highest quality food possible. That there's a cost to completely organic, grown with craft, with hand-picked berries that taste just like summer should...
David will keep working to produce these berries until it starts to get cold and he and Jeni will take a break, maybe to Italy, or France, or both. They'll return a few weeks later and prune the berry bushes and fruit trees, turn the soil and get rid of the remaining weeds, fix a hundred things by hand and get ready for a new season. I think the land likes David and Jeni. It responds well to their care, and to what they choose to plant and tend. On my way home, I pop a huge red raspberry into my mouth. It taste like a warm summers day and reminds me of my own childhood. I'm grateful for people like these guys, and for their ability to put summer in a punnet.
Gary and Ali Jackson grow cherries out near Cromwell. Big, giant, plum-sized cherries. Cherries that burst with dark red sweetness and send a hit of melatonin to your brain, making you want to keep eating them past sated into that happy and pleasure-filled, drowsily euphoric (that's the melatonin), festive feeling. Their orchard, Off Our Tree, grows super sweet Sweetheart cherries and punchy white-fleshed Rainiers, alongside Sonnets, Sambas, Stellas, Skeenas and Staccatos, each in a various shade of red. And, just when you think you can't chomp another cherry, there's Lapins, Kordias, Celestes and New Yorks to be had. In fact, Off Our Tree has 13 varieties comprising their 2500 cherry trees which grow on 3 hectares - it's quite simply cherry heaven.
So, it came as a surprise to discover that this orchard is barely 15 years old and that Gary and Ali both trained as teachers, not horticulturalists. Both their sets of parents (and, on Gary's side, grandparents) were teachers and principals of schools around the Kaipara region north of Auckland. Ali still teaches in Cromwell but around 15 years ago the Jacksons decided to move to Ripponvale. What started off as a 'lifestyle block' turned into a full-time business growing some of the best cherries in the world. They bought some land before things got pricey and found the Waenga loam soil, washed down over centuries from the Mount Pisa fault block range, was exceptionally rich and fertile. Seeing as the soil was "too good for grapes" (in Gary's opinion), they decided to plant cherry trees and followed the lead of some long-term friends who were doing the same.
Today, most of Gary's huge (26 to 34mm) cherries go overseas as export grade product, travelling as far as Russia, Taiwan, Korea and Western Australia. The Mediterranean Market is one of the few local stores to sell boxes or punnets of Stellas and Rainiers over their short harvesting season throughout the Christmas period. When Gary first started connecting with a few local markets to share his cherries with, he got in touch with Moore Wilson's in Wellington. He then met Nathan (who also had a good relationship with the Wellington store) who quickly said he'd take as much as Off Our Tree could supply. Part of the reward for Gary and Ali selling local is the enthusiasm their cherries are met with, with the key complaint being that customers find they devour them too quickly!
Walking around the orchard, I got a down to earth look at why Off Our Tree grows such amazing fruit. As teachers, the Jacksons are great learners and have brought intellectual rigour and curiosity to their commitment to understand all they can about each cherry variety they grow and sell. Gary and Ali work their tails off insuring that each of their 2500 trees (which Gary dug each and every hole for) is perfectly pruned each year using the central leader method. They have to deal with frosts, rain, wind and birds in a constant dance of weather and wildlife management. Large nets that keep the birds off the trees and rain damage to a minimum have to be put up and taken down every year. Ali still teaches during school terms but is on deck at the orchard when the trees start to fruit, which happens during her 'holidays'. When the picking starts, Gary knows each tree's fruiting cycle and sends his pickers to fill orders via the comprehensive spreadsheet in his head.
The Jackson's have also worked hard to promote new cherries like the white-fleshed Rainier (a Washington State variety), educating the general Kiwi public about this beautiful golden yellow and pink hued cherry, so different from the archetypal deep red fruit that customers initially thought it was a dud. They care to ensure that their land is farmed in a sustainable way, including the keeping of bees which pollinate the orchard while making a delicious honey from the nectar of the wild viper's bugloss, which grows around the orchard. And they're enthusiastic about ideas for new fruit to fill the other three hectares in their care - perhaps with the loganberries, karaka blackberries and greengages they're experimenting with. Whatever it is these folks end up growing, I'm sure it'll be some of New Zealand's finest.
Nutritional Advice from Kim Malcolm
The Nutrition of a Cherry
Cherries are most commonly known for containing melatonin, the sleep hormone that is also naturally created in the body to regulate the circadian rhythms. As the body typically only creates melatonin in darkness not everyone is able to produce it, so eating cherries or taking natural cherry concentrated juice can boost your melatonin levels.
Cherries are high in the antioxidant that is associated with reducing inflammation in the body, so that makes them helpful for working against gout or arthritis. This also works to lower the risk of certain diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Additionally, cherries contain small levels of zinc, which is needed to support the immune system and moderate levels of potassium that support the heart.
The last bit of helpful information is that whether you are eating sweet or tart cherries they are 75% water and full of soluble fiber. So, all in all, this sweet treat is to be recognized as not just something that is extremely delicious to eat but also beneficial to your health!
Matakauri Lodge's head chef Jonathan Rogers has a real gift in turning traditional ingredients and recipes into something very special. I think this is based, in part, on his access to great produce. But the real magic comes from his ability to transform tried and true concepts (like the simple pound cake, or a basic sorbet) into a whimsical combination of fresh, baked and frozen delights.
In last weeks blog, Jonathan shared his take on a light lunch using some local fare, including Canter Valley's duck breast, Basil & Parsley's kale, and a few other tasty additions. This week, he kindly shares his flare for desserts which combines fresh berries from Goodies on the Gorge and his very own poppyseed pound cake. As with last week, there are a few steps to the recipes, but don't be put off. The results - seen below in his final plating - are well worth the effort! It's a gorgeous homage to summer in Queenstown.
Poppy Seed Pound Cake
250gm unsalted Butter at room temperature
220gm castor sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
4 large organic eggs (preferably from Wanaka organics), at room temp
250gm plain flour
3tsp baking powder
3tbsp, poppy seeds
• Preheat oven to 170˚C
• Beat butter with an electric mixer until smooth, add castor sugar, vanilla essence and continue beating until white and creamy.
• Add eggs one at a time and continue beating until thoroughly mixed together.
• Sieve flour and baking powder and gently fold together with poppy seeds into the butter mixture.
• Pour the mixture into a large rectangular baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
• Turn out onto a baking rack and allow to cool.
• Once cool, cut into 4 cm squares.
5 leaves gelatin
500gm raspberry puree
100gm castor sugar
• Bloom the gelatin leaves in cold water .
• Place the raspberry puree and sugar in a small saucepan on a gentle heat, stirring regularly until the sugar has dissolved.
• Add the softened gelatin and whisk until the gelatin has dissolved.
• Spray a small rectangular container with cornola oil spray wiping off excess oil.
• Pour jelly into container and allow to set in the refrigerator.
500gm mixed berries
100gm castor sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
• Bring all the ingredients to a simmer in a small sauce pan.
• Puree and pass through a fine mesh sieve.
• Allow to cool in refrigerator.
8 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp vodka
• Blend the blueberries, water, and lemon juice until smooth, pass through a fine mesh sieve.
• Place berry mixture and sugar in a medium saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved.
• Allow to cool and mix in the vodka.
• Churn in a ice cream machine following the manufacturers instructions.
A variety of goodies from the gorge fresh berries and currants
Cubed poppy seed pound cake
1. Mix fresh berries and currants lightly with berry couli and chopped mint.
2. Cut raspberry jelly into long rectangles.
3. Place a rectangle of jelly on plate, artfully arrange pound cake, berry salad and sorbet around the jelly.
4. Garnish with Fresh Mint Sprigs.
Last week I sat down for a drink in Matakauri Lodge's main dining room with head chef Jonathan Rogers, talking food and taking in the ambiance of this gorgeous Relais & Chateaux location. The Lodge is nestled in the hills above Lake Wakatipu with stunning views of the Remarkables, Walter Peak and Cecil mountain ranges. The interior design is warm and elegant, created by kiwi designer Virginia Fisher, and provides a tranquil space to breathe in the breathtaking landscape around the lodge. It's the perfect setting to showcase the exceptional food Jonathan creates using the finest produce available in Otago and Southland.
Matakauri Lodge makes regular food orders with the Mediterranean Market, which Jonathan also visits a couple of times a week. He tells me that he gets inspired while roaming around the watermelon, radishes or when spotting the huge fresh figs that arrived just that morning. Jonathan also gets inspired by getting out and about. Sometimes its for business, like a trip through Kawarau Gorge to visit suppliers such as Goodies on the Gorge and see for himself what David and Jenny White are harvesting or to pick up a few of their gardening tips. Other times its for pleasure, like a fishing jaunt along Wakatipu's many rivers. All of these experiences of the region and the local relationships that weave this place together end up making their way into Jonathan's daily menu planning sessions. It's a good thing he's got lots of inspirational material to hand, because its a new menu every day at Matakauri to cater for the dynamic dining experience Relais & Chateaux are known for.
Being inspired by regional fare has been a journey for Jonathan. He grew up in Papakura where food culture in the '90s was about pizza and fish n chips. While studying at the Manukau Institute of Technology, however, he saw an entirely different world of food, researching the work of Charlie Trotter and many other chefs who were transforming local ingredients into something truly amazing. Jonathan went from school to real-world cooking with Tony Adcock at Orbit in Auckland before heading to Canada where he had the privilege to learn about regional cuisine from Melissa Craig at Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler. It was at Barefoot that Jonathan first had access to dozens of varieties of local mushrooms and the stunning blueberries of British Columbia. While chef Rogers was learning about this kind of fusion, NZ fare was moving along the same track.
When he returned, Jonathan chose to avoid the bustle of Auckland and looked to the Queenstown Lakes area to keep honing his craft. He worked at Spire and a few other places before landing in Matakauri, where he now pulls together his years of experience and Otago's budding food culture. On the day I visited, Jonathan chose to make a light summer lunch featuring Canter Valley duck breast, followed by a playful desert with berries from Goodies on the Gorge. His colourful plating of kale, beet, fig, watercress and walnuts, all dancing around the perfectly seared duck, made it clear that this fine chef loves what he does and the place he's doing it.
The relationship between Angela & Nathan's ability to gather the regions best ingredients at the Market, and Matakauri's elegant lodge environment, is a lovely example of what the Queenstown region is known for; a stunning combination of a dramatic space and some of the best produce in the world. The way Canter Valley conscientiously raises their ducks and the care behind Goodie's hand-picked raspberries, gives Jonathan a solid platform to build his daily creations. The chef rounds it all out with trips to Matakauri's own garden where his own globe artichokes, squash or borage may be just the right thing for another beautiful lunch on the lake.
Canter Valley Duck Breast, Beetroot, Goats Curd Mousse & Pickled Walnut Dressing
Chef Rogers was kind enough to share his duck breast recipe with us but for the real deal treat yourself to a few nights at Matakauri, it's absolutely stunning.
Olive Oil Poached Beetroot
200gm Baby Golden Beetroot
200gm Baby Purple Beetroot
200gm Baby Chiogga Beetroot
Pomace Olive Oil
• Lightly scrub and trim stalks from baby beetroot.
• Place each variety of beetroot, a tsp salt, and 3 sprigs of thyme in 3 small saucepans to prevent the purple beetroot staining the others.
• Cover with the pomace olive oil and simmer on a low heat until beetroot are tender.
• Remove from the heat and allow the beetroot to cool in the oil.
• Once beetroot are cooled, scrub lightly with a clean tea towel to remove skins.
• Cut into halves.
Butternut Squash Puree
500gm Butternut Squash
• Sweat the Squash in a covered sauce pan with the butter until cooked, season lightly with salt and pepper.
• Puree until silky smooth in a bar blender, pass through a fine mesh sieve.
Pickled Walnut Dressing
100gm Castor Sugar
100gm White Balsamic Vinegar
200gm Walnut Halves
1 sprig thyme
1zest of 1 lemon
• Bring vinegar, sugar, lemon and thyme to a boil.
• Pour boiling pickling liquid over walnuts and allow to cool.
Goats Curd Mousse
200gm Meadow Croft goats curd
1 Lemon zest and juice
• Mix all ingredients together and check seasoning.
• Pickled Beetroot Slices
Thinly Sliced Golden and Chiogga Baby Beets
100ml white balsamic Vinegar
100gm Castor Sugar
• Bring vinegar and sugar to a simmer. Whisk to dissolve sugar.
• Pour pickling liquid over sliced beets and allow to cool.
2 Trimmed and scored Canter Valley Duck Breasts
Pickled Beetroot Slices
Olive Oil Poached Baby Beets
Goats Curd Mousse
Butternut Squash Puree
Water Cress Sprigs
Pre heat oven to 180c
• Place the duck breast in a large oven proof frying pan over a low heat skin side down. Keep pouring off rendered duck fat until skin is very crispy, turn the breasts over and place pan in oven for 1 1/2 minutes. Allow the duck too rest in a warm place for 5 minutes.
• Carve the duck breast into cubes.
• Reheat poached beetroot in the oven.
• Reheat butter nut squash puree in a small saucepan.
• Place a line of butternut squash puree down the middle of a plate, artfully arrange the other ingredients around the puree.
• Place a quenelle of goats curd mousse in the top left hand corner of plate.
• Garnish with water cress and lightly sprinkle with flakey sea salt.
• Lightly drizzle the plate with the walnut pickling liquid.
Who we are
This blog is written by Patrick Dodson and is a collaborative effort from the entire Raeward Fresh team of purchasers, chefs, nutritionists, butchers, grocers, baristas and other food creatives.
Crystal Gardens Lettuce
Chef Dave Miller
Retro Organics Milk
Basil & Parsley
Jenny Lamond Cakes
Canter Valley Turkey
Wanaka Organics Eggs
Chef Anne Halson
Chef Jonathan Rogers
Off Our Tree Cherries
Goodies On The Gorge
The Raeward Fresh Queenstown Kitchen
Kim Malcolm on Coconuts
Cairnmuir Olive Oil
Provisions Jane Shaw
Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter
Make It Raw
Kokako drinking chocolate
Inch Valley Preserves
White Rabbit Cacao
The People' Bread
Weka Olive Oil
White Heart Hazelnuts
Karamaya Black Garlic
Muesli & Co
Soda Press Co
Dr Feelgood Frozen Pops
All Good Drinks
She Universe Chocolates
A Cracker Of A Nut
Raglan Coconut Yoghurt
Pinoli Pine Nuts
Bonnie Goods Oatcakes
Taste of Provence
Tom & Luke Bars
Pure NZ Ice Cream
Clevedon Buffalo Mozzarella
the Kefir company
Pure Wasabi Coppersfolly
Benneto's Drinking Chocolate
Blueskin Bay Honey
Hogarth Craft Chocolate
Something To Crow About
Fresh As dried Foods
Holy Smoke Salmon
Rebel Foods Nutribombs
Vigour & Vitality
East Imperial Tonics
Abel Methode Cider
Wild Fennel Co.
Covet Nut Milks
Tio Pablo Foods
First Light Wagyu
The Chocolate Workshop