Publication: Maeve Magazine
Nothing says summer in Tasmania like an overflowing basket of luscious plump berries. Use for baking delicious cakes, to decorate a festive pavlova or just eat straight from the plant, the sticky juices running down your arm.
The summer berry season in Tasmania starts with strawberries in late October, with raspberries joining the menu in December and blueberries in late January. The berry trail stretches right across the state, with locals and visitors alike enjoying the flavour of just-picked berries.
Hillwood Farmgate strawberries are grown in the Tamar Valley as part of the family-owned Meander Valley Dairy. Kicking off their season with 250 1kg punnets at the local farmer’s market, Hillwood Farmgate manager Simon Dornauf said they were expecting a bumper crop of at least 75 tonne of strawberries this year.
“We’ve got two hectares that are fully covered with polytunnels, so that equates to roughly 105,000 plants,” Mr Dornauf explained.
The strawberry crop was actually a second thought for the Dornauf family, who bought a property that included the old cheese factory at Hillwood for their dairy operations, but then wanted to use the excess land and strawberries fitted the bill.
“We thought about what we could do to utilise the land a bit better,” he said.
Strawberry lovers can buy the strawberries at the Hillwood Farmgate, along with Meander Valley Dairy’s cream, milk and cheese products, and also at Harvest Launceston.
Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm at Elizabeth Town in Tasmania’s fertile north-west picks about 50 tonnes of raspberries each season (between December and March). Raspberry fans can buy the berries direct from the farm, enjoy them in delicious sweet and savoury dishes at the farm café, however most are sold through supermarkets in Tasmania and also mainland Australia (New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia), Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm assistant manager Jared Maloney said.
“The majority of our crops get sent to the mainland and distributed to supermarkets,” Mr Maloney said, explaining the farm tended thousands of raspberry canes across four berry varieties.
Pickers are recruited each year to supplement the farm staff. “We have around 50 to 60 pickers throughout the summer. Some are employees, but the majority are backpackers from different countries,” he explained.
On a smaller scale, the blueberries produced from 200 bushes at Cherrytop Farmstay are now yielding enough to warrant the owners, John and Lesley Gallagher, building a picker’s hut to house their berry-picking helpers while they manage the accommodation side of their business.
The organically grown berries are sold to the public from the farm, Mr Gallagher said.
“People will just come up the drive asking for a kilo [of blueberries], and are happy to pay the prices that we ask, because we cut out the middle man,” he said, adding they are sold at $12 a kilo.
The six varieties of blueberries grown at the Lilydale farm in north-east Tasmania have been selected for taste, rather than keeping quality so are best eaten quickly.
“Some people like them frozen; they’re like sweets and blueberry muffins are a particular favourite, but they’re just good on their own,” he laughed.
Unlike larger scale farms, the Gallaghers don’t net their berries or grow them in polytunnels, but use geese to keep the grass down and “share with the birds”.
“We spend nine months of the year looking after these blueberries and it’s the sort of experience that we like to share with people. I think that’s valuable to experience because people don’t know where that fruit comes from, and, perhaps, come to appreciate how things have changed – and continue to change,” Mr Gallagher said.
Blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and loganberries are also popular summer fruits in Tasmania.
- Hillwood Farmgate: http://meandervalleydairy.com.au/
- Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm: http://www.fruit-pickers-tasmania.com.au/
- Cherrytop Farmstay: http://www.cherrytopfarmstay.moonfruit.com/
- Harvest Launceston: http://harvestmarket.org.au/
Recipe: Stanley & Nelson’s Rich Chocolate Brownies with Hillwood Farmgate Strawberries
- 250g dark chocolate, chopped
- 2/3 cup raw caster sugar
- 150g unsalted butter, cubed
- 125g ground almonds (or almond meal)
- 5 free range eggs, separated
- Strawberries to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and put 21 cupcake cases in a muffin/cupcake tray.
- Melt the chocolate, sugar and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth.
- Add the ground almonds, followed by the egg yolks, beating after each yolk is added.
- Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until medium peaks form and then stir into the chocolate mixture with a metal spoon or spatula.
- Spread the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake for around 20-30 minutes (depending on the oven) until they are firm to touch, but still soft centred.
- Allow brownies to cool in the tray and then decorate with fresh whole or sliced strawberries.