Martin Bosley takes a look at the local food scene in Taranaki.
Several years ago, I was in Tokyo demonstrating to a number of chefs the glory and beauty of New Zealand grass-fed beef. The chefs were comparing it unfavourably to Wagyu, the grain-fed cattle they were used to. Behind me was a large, cinematic poster of Mount Taranaki, its towering volcanic slopes surrounded by lush green pastures with the byline “our backyard”. I pointed to the poster and told the chefs that this was where the beef came from – that this was the water the cattle drank, the grass they were raised on and the clean air they breathed. All comparisons to Wagyu stopped – they were hooked on the flavour and the story.
Once known for its beef and dairy farming, surfing, wild beaches and mineral resources, Taranaki is now also known for a sustainability-focused food scene. Here, local producers are dedicated to growing the best possible produce, with infectious energy and enthusiasm.
Ōakura-based Roebuck Farm is a sustainable, small-scale working farm nestled on just half an acre of land in a protected valley. Owners Jodi Roebuck and Tanya Mercer grow vegetables, microgreens and mixed salads the way Jodi’s grandma used to, mixed up with a few modern innovations. The farm is interactive, with Jodi teaching independence and self-sufficiency through activities based on their agrarian and market garden production. roebuckfarm.com
South Taranaki is home to The New Zealand Quinoa Company. Hamish and Kate Dunlop started growing the South American ‘super grain’ after a couple of years of research and development. Farmed sustainably with minimal intervention, their quinoa cooks quickly and is light, easily digested and highly nutritious. It’s versatile too: grains usually used for tabbouleh, couscous, stuffings, salads and risottos can all be interchanged. newzealandquinoa.co.nz
Founded by the Carey family in 2012, Green Meadows Beef farm is located south of Ōpunake, not far from the Green Meadows surf break. Protected by Mount Taranaki and the Taungatara Stream, it’s a bovine paradise – thanks to the cool climate, the cattle graze on abundant, nutrient-rich grass pasture, silage and hay. The result is high-quality, great-tasting, consistently tender and delicious beef. greenmeadowsbeef.co.nz
Juno is the ancient goddess of love and marriage. It’s also the name of Jo and Dave James’ gin. Partners in life as well as in business, they have fleshed out the traditional warming coriander and juniper flavours of gin with high-quality, locally sourced botanicals and water flowing from Mount Taranaki. For those who think that marinating beef in gin is a waste of good gin, consider the Negroni. This is quite possibly the world’s greatest aperitif; it’s one of the few that also works as a digestif, and its success relies on the quality of the gin. The recipe is a doddle – equal parts Campari, gin and sweet red vermouth, with an orange zest garnish over ice. junogin.com