Hawkesbury Harvest: growers' market & farmgate trail
Posted by kathryn in Vegetables
Yet another GFM event I didn’t book in time was the Flavours of Sydney’s Hills Region tour. Not to be outdone, last weekend Richard and I set off (again) on our own, unofficial tour of the market and farmgate trail.
The importance of the Hawkesbury as an agricultural region dates back to the very early days of European colonisation of Australia. Food was grown in this fertile area and transported by boat, down the Hawkesbury, out to sea and then down the coast to Sydney. Even today, there’s still a lot of farming going on in the Hawkesbury region and all around the outskirts of Sydney. This urban agriculture is an important source of food to us in the City. In fact, 12% of NSW’s total agricultural production occurs in the Sydney region, on only 1% of the states’ land.
The Castle Hill Growers’ Market takes place on the second Saturday of each month. It’s a great market with interesting stalls and lovely fresh food. There’s definitely more fresh produce than at the Good Living market, which sometimes seems dominated by the chutney, muesli and jam makers. At Castle Hill there’s plenty of super-fresh fruit and vegies, eggs, meat, fish, bread, cheeses, as well as the jams, chutneys and a fresh pasta stall.
We were there on the freakishly hot (for this time of year anyway) 37C day and it was just too much to wander around the outside stalls. It had been an early start, so we did kick off the day with some coffee and an Okonomiya before heading inside. These are Japanese pancakes made from flour, eggs, lots of vegies and then topped with mayonnaise and seaweed. It’s a delicious combination.
Inside is a whole lot cooler and there are plenty of stalls, so we hung around there for a while. After a bit of taste-testing we bought celeriac, beautiful young rocket and the freshest of corn from the Grimas Farm stand; bread and blue cheese from Ocello; passionfruit butter from the Blue M Food Co, goat’s milk soap from Willowbrae and fresh artichokes from the Farmgate Trail people.
Despite the scorching weather (and not having airconditioning in our car), we then headed up along the Old Northern Road to Galston Strawberries at 359 . The Barba family grow strawberries, blueberries, nectarines, peaches and tomatoes and they sell their beautiful harvest at a roadside stall outside their property. We picked up three punnets of strawberries – one best and two seconds (for making into jam). Half of the best punnet was gone by the time we were back to the car (20 metres away). These are simply the best strawberries I’ve eaten in years. They aren’t super sweet, but they are super-flavoured, in that oh-my-gosh-that’s-what-strawberries-should-taste-like revelation, kind of way.
Once back on the Old Northern Road, only about five minutes from Galston Strawberries we also picked up a punnet of mulberries from a road-side seller (for $2.50!). So they sat nestled between the strawberries, on the backseat of our car.
From Galston Strawberries we headed up the Old Northern Road. We didn’t stop, but there are rose farms, geranium sellers and also an aromatherapy place (Balanced Essentials). Down Wiseman’s Ferry Road we got to the Sackville ferry over the Hawkesbury river.
From there our next stop was the Tizzana Winery at Ebenezer. This is a beautiful spot, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The wine-tasting area is in a beautiful old stone building that was just wonderfully coooooool inside – such a relief from the scorching weather. Here you can taste the wines made by Tizzana, but also those from other smaller local vineyards. They make cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, petit verdot, rose, dessert wines and a fine, fine port.
After the winery we went to the * Hawkesbury Vegetable Farm * . This is a great place to buy vegies. They grow a huge range and everything you buy was picked that morning. In fact, our carrots and beetroot were picked, from the ground, while we were there . Without having your own backyard vegie patch, you just can’t get any fresher than that. We decided to buy a $25 box and it was the best value box I’ve ever seen. It included:
- bunch of Dutch carrots (picked while we were there)
- huge bunch of beetroot (also picked while we were there)
- 4 onions
- potatoes (about 5kg)
- whole cabbage
- iceberg lettuce
- huge bag of mushrooms
- a leek
- 3 tomatoes
- 3 Josephine pears
- 6 mandarins (Honey Murcott’s I think)
- 3 oranges
- 2 mangoes
While this picture looks a bit of a mess, it does give an idea of the size of the box. We used the silverbeet that night (because it wouldn’t fit in our fridge with all the other food), in a pasta sauce. It was juicy and delicious, packed full of flavour that you just don’t get from supermarket-bought silverbeet.
They also do $35 boxes, you can get fresh eggs, or you can make up your own box of produce. If you go up to the Hawkesbury, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Our last stop was in Windsor, where we bought a couple of bottles of cold beer and sat by the Hawkesbury, enjoying some of our fabulous produce. Ocello blue cheese and bread, rocket from the Castle Hill market and tomatoes from the Hawkesbury Vegetable Farm. Followed by passionfruit butter and bread and fresh strawberries. It was a fine way to end our farmgate experience.
The Hawkesbury Farmgate Trail
Apart from the market, we only visited three places on the Farmgate Trail , but there are a huge range of farms, wineries and produce sellers that retail to the public. These include citrus fruits, walnuts, chestnuts, fresh duck, stonefruit, fresh flowers, berries, free range eggs, meat, jams and so on.
The Hawkesbury Harvest organisation provides lots of information about the Farmgate Trail – what’s in season, where to go, opening hours and so on. Their website has suggested maps and itineraries, plus info on upcoming events and so on.
This area is so close to Sydney, it’s an easy day out. The fruit and vegies we bought are some of the best I’ve ever had, largely because of their freshness. You just don’t get this in shop-bought produce, no matter how good the shop is. Given the nutritional losses that occur after harvesting, being able to get this kind of fruit and veg is a real bonus, both taste-wise and also nutritionally.
It’s a day out though and not something you’d probably do every week. However I’m already looking forward to going back. Next time I want to to the Kookootonga Walnut&Chestnut Farm , where you can collect your own nuts, as well as Pine Crest Orchard (numbers 1 and 6 on this map), to pick your own fruit – couldn’t be any fresher than that.
Where we shopped:
- Hawkesbury Harvest Growers’ Market . Open second Sat every month 8.00am – 12.00pm. Castle Hill Showground, Castle Hill – enter via Carrington Road.
- Galston Strawberries at 359 . Open Sept: Sat – Sun 8.00am – 5.00pm, Oct – Apr: 7 days 8.00am – 5.00pm. 359 Galston Rd, Galston – number 41 on this map.
- Tizzana Winery (4579 1150). Open Sat, Sun&public holidays 12.00pm – 6.00pm. 518 Tizzana Rd, Ebenezer – number 29 on this map.
- Hawkesbury Vegetable Farm (4576 3529). Open Sat 9.00am – 3.00pm and at other times call beforehand. 135 Carrs Rd, Wilberforce – number 28 on this map.
For more about Good Food Month, take a look at Cucina Rebecca’s weekly round-up.