Exploring Carnarvon – Gascoyne Food Festival

As a proud West Australian I feel quite passionately about the importance of supporting our hard working farmers and producers. They put in incredibly long hours, working the land so that West Aussies can enjoy the best of the best on the produce front. And it is something that needs to be appreciated.

Mother Nature doesn’t also lend a hand and in 2015 when Cyclone Olwyn moved through the Gascoyne, it decimated many farms in the region. Banana crops were essentially all destroyed. I can’t begin to imagine how devastating a blow this would be for these farmers. They have worked tirelessly to get their trees to the point where they are producing and to have them wiped out would  be heartbreaking. But something that should never be underestimated is the resilience of farmers, because they always knew they would rebuild and slowly, but surely they have. This was first highlighted at the WA Food Fest event at Farmer Jacks in Claremont which showcased many beautiful Gascoyne region products as they made their triumphant return to market. Fast forward to 2016 and the region is now fully back up and running and in part this year’s Gascoyne Food Festival is a celebration of this fact.

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Photo Credit: Gascoyne Food Council 

The opportunity to visit a few producers while I was in Carnarvon was a really special experience. An organic and biodynamic farmer named Ketut from Westut Plantation was happy for us to have a wander around and check out the beautiful property, which offers an abundance of different tropical fruit trees and she herself maintains the farm.

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She was even so kind as to make a piece of toast so I could try out the freshest avocado on toast I’ve ever enjoyed. It was so creamy and had such a beautiful flavour. Amazing! I so enjoyed hearing from her all about her farm and how she chooses to operate. She wants her customers to enjoy the produce when the flavours are at their peak, so quality control and taking care to get the timing right is very important to her. An example of this care is that she hand picks all her mango trees each season and waits until the fruit is at its very best before it goes to market. She is such a passionate person to hear from and despite all the hard work and no doubt long hours, you can just tell she loves it. And I believe this is reflected in her high quality products…. Two of her avocadoes actually made their way back to Perth with me, which I’m pretty excited about.

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Our next stop took us across the Gascoyne River. It’s not often you see doughnut marks all over a river bed, but it does looks completely bone dry at the moment. As I found out though, the river actually runs below the surface. It’s only in the wet season that they may have some occasions when the lower bridge is closed so the river can flow across it. It’s definitely not something you’d see every day so another unique feature of the town.

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We wound our way past vast paddocks of zucchinis, table grapes, tomatoes and plenty of bananas and ended up at Bumbak’s. They are talented producers of a range of flavoursome homemade sauces, chutneys and jams, along with dried fruits and some incredibly tempting ice-creams!

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Despite only being 10am it was decided it was morning tea time and a choc dipped mango ice-cream was the perfect pick. I had thought about tackling one of the tubs they had solo, but reminded myself I had a large lunch on the horizon. There was something so blissful about sitting at one of their outdoor tables and eating that indulgent mango ice-cream in the sunshine. Maybe because it is Winter and sunshine has been a precious commodity in Perth so I felt like I wanted to soak up as much of this warming Vitamin D as I could!

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I left with a decent stash from Bumbaks, including some of their pasta sauce and beetroot relish and also looked forward to tucking into some dried mango at my desk next week. A taste of Carnarvon in the CBD!

From Bumbak’s, we drove towards Morel’s. This took us over the larger bridge into town. We called into a road side lookout that allowed you to wander down and check out the dry river bed and marvel at the markers as to how high the water could climb. The measure goes up to 6m and as I would later find out in December 2010 the levels actually rose to 7.79m!

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On to Morel’s, it is another wonderful place we visited with plenty of fresh fruit and veg all bagged up and packaged and ready to go. I was keen to take plenty home, but had to try and restrain myself, because I only had so much suitcase space and I knew some things would transfer better than others. So I grabbed some herbs, always get a bit excited when I see Thai basil, and then also a starfruit, because I’d really only ever seen them in Queensland and they present beautifully. Then I saw they were selling black sapote. Now I’d never seen this fruit before, but there’d been much talk about it and despite the fact that it is labelled with fragile stickers, the challenge was on that I would be getting one of these home to Perth. Apparently they taste like a chocolate pudding, which sounded pretty special. (So as I write this, which is on the plane home, I have an esky bag at my feet with a bubble wrapped black sapote in it. I am getting this precious cargo home to try!). Only a brief visit, but I was a happy camper to have called past and to be leaving with my bag full of fresh goodies.

It had been a lovely few hours cruising around town and hearing from a few of the passionate locals. It enforced to me what a lucky bunch we are in the West to have this great produce on our doorstep. Did you know that there are 176 plantations in the Gascoyne Region and that they supply 60-70% of Western Australia’s fruit and vegetables during winter? It is such an important part of our state. So when you are out shopping, please look at where your fruit and veg comes from. You want it local and you want it fresh. Flavourwise it is so worth the effort and it keeps our farmers in business. Buy West and you will eat best 🙂

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Please Note: I was the guest of Gascoyne Food Council for my visit to Carnarvon. My thanks to them for this amazing opportunity. Also thank you to Georgia from Fresh Creative Management for being a wonderful tour guide. 

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