Te Awamutu Market 17th January

Te Awamutu Thursday market continues to grow in popularity especially at this time of year with all the wonderful summer vegetables available for buying straight from the growers. I was set up beside Pia and Henk Van Halem at last Thursday’s market. I could not believe how busy they were, selling their wonderful seasonal tomatoes which include regular, acid free and heirloom, yellow butter beans and green stringless beans and of course courgettes and capsicums. You might recognise them from last year with their big high sided beige van and big bright plastic bins of produce.
Henk and Pia arrived  in New Zealand over 30 years ago as a young Dutch couple seeking a better life with no idea what they were going to do here. They starting off working for other Dutch horticulturalists in Auckland growing carnations but they wanted to have their own business so they bought 4 acres in Pirongia and erected 3000 square metres of greenhouses in which to grow hydroponic cucumbers all year round for Turners and Growers under contract. However having grown cucumbers only for a very long time they decided about 3 years ago to go out on their own and now they grow a range of summer vegetables almost exclusively for the Farmers’ Markets at Te Awamutu, Cambridge and Hamilton.
So now instead of hydroponics they grow everything in the soil rather than hydroponically. They minimise their use of sprays to Neem oil for insect control. The outcome is naturally grown produce with a superior flavour and nutrient value and I can personally vouch for their tomatoes. I bought some heirlooms last week and the taste was absolutely delicious. Heirloom Tomatoes are more meaty and have less seeds and the flavour is quite wonderful. It reminded me of a tomato and thinly sliced red onion salad I had in France which had been lightly salted and sprinkled with crushed garlic and basil and left to marinade for about an hour. My jaw aches just thinking about it.
Anyway back to Henk and Pia. I asked them what the name of their enterprise was and they looked at me sheepishly. We don’t have one yet they said. Well how can I direct customers to you if you don’t have a name? I asked. Well we have a big list but we just can’t choose the right one, they said. Okay, says I, I am writing a blog about you this week so this is your opportunity to decide on a name. They looked worried.
Three days later I got a call from Pia. We have decided on ‘PIRONGIA HARVEST’, said Pia. Brilliant says I, Decribes you beautifully.
So everyone – check out the high sided beige Japanese import van with lots of brightly coloured plastic veggie boxes stacked up. That will be PIRONGIA HARVEST. I doubt they have their signs made up yet but you’ll know who they are from my decription. Tell them Meg sent you!

See you this Thursday afternoon from 2.30sh onwards for another wonderful opportunity to stock up with all that is locally produced in the Waikato region and buy direct from the grower / maker.

Next week I might just give you my recipe for Tomato Heaven which can only be made with fabulous sunripened summer tomatoes so make sure to read next week’s blog.

Meg Daly
Celtic Cuisine