The Diversity Of Life, And Fruit
by Ollie Benson
Over the Christmas break I sat down to read a recently published book by Jill Griffiths, called What’s For Dinner. In the book’s introduction the author quotes a staggering fact – that 75% of the world’s food comes from just 12 plant species and 5 animal species. And that’s despite having 14,000 edible plants to choose from!
This lack of diversity has left the western world’s food system in a precarious situation. It is therefore key that we celebrate seasonal produce and support farmers that are passionate about rebuilding diversity, preserving heirloom plants, and breeding heritage animals, who are focused on building back resilience in our systems. People that take joy in eating and growing a diverse range of produce.
Ros Mangold is one of these people. Having purchased Old Post Office Farm in 2015, Ros and her husband Anthony are dedicated to nurturing the certified organic orchard of stone fruit and apples they inherited with the property. With at least 10 varieties of apricots, 15 varieties of plums, and 48 varieties of apples, it’s this diversity that makes their small farm tick.
Situated in Lymington, 15 minutes from Cygnet, Old Post Office Farm, as the name suggests, was once the unofficial post office of Petcheys Bay. Built in 1908, the farmhouse is now being restored by Ros and Anthony. When they’re not tending to the orchard or picking fruit! By having so many varieties this extends their season and spreads the revenue they make from the farm. With a changing climate, it also means they have adaptability. This year they had apricots available two weeks before Christmas, which is almost unheard of.
The last two varieties of apricots will be ready to go this month. Ros says these two, including the wonderfully named Pearly Glow, (named after the mother of the previous owners) are not commercial varieties as they’re not pretty, but they are fantastic for jam and for bottling.
The other key advantage to growing a diverse range is that if one variety has a bad season, they have plenty of others to fall back on. It just requires flexibility – if fruit is ready earlier than normal, then it needs picking. As they’ve discovered this year!
Plums will firmly be in season during February, although their Mariposa plums, a blood plum that is Ros’ favourite, were also early. The last of the plum varieties will then be picked in April, the Autumn Giant, which as you can imagine produces large fruit with dark pink skin and yellow flesh.
Most of their stone fruit is sold through Cygnet Garden Larder. Upon moving to the farm and working out the best avenue to sell their produce, Ros contacted the Cygnet Larder’s owner, Bec, who jumped at the chance to have certified organic fruit in her shop, instantly telling Ros that she would take as much as they had. Some of it is then on-sold to restaurants such as Peppina in Hobart.
Ros’ passion for diversity extends beyond orchard fruit too. With over 80 varieties of tomatoes, countless pumpkins and chillies, at Old Post Office Farm, variety most definitely is the spice of life!
ROS’ ROASTED APRICOTS WITH BRANDY
12 apricots, halved and stones discarded
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
Dash of brandy
Method: In a baking dish, arrange the apricots with the cut side up. Dot the butter around the dish, sprinkle with sugar and splash the brandy over the fruit. Roast in an oven at 200 degrees C for 20-25 minutes and serve with ice cream.