Rainbow fruit and vegetables as far as the eye can see, soulful folk music filling our ears, the scent of chargrilled sausage happily wafting into the ‘ole olfactory and artisan food stalls lined back to back.. in other words, the Byron Bay Farmers’ Market is like Disneyland for foodies. It’s one of the most talked about farmers’ markets in Australia, and for good reason.
They’re the real deal–all the produce, as well as value added products are sourced locally (and checked on a regular basis), they’re highly organized, and have a very strong community following. Anybody and everybody in Byron was at the market that blustery Sunday morning, and despite the unfortunate weather, bright eyes and laughter were out in full force.
We chatted to the pasta maker, the beekeeper, food writer Victoria Cosford, and a man who makes rainbow fruit leathers. Here are their stories.
” Anyone that has had my pasta says it’s different to anything else out there.”
1. Despina’s Kitchen handmade pasta
Do you make the pasta by hand?
It passes through my hands and nobody else’s, that way I can control the finished product. I have a lot of machinery but my hands do most of the work. Once you go to the next level it becomes much more manufactured and you lose touch with the product. Anyone that has had my pasta says it’s different to anything else out there because I really take care of the finished product. It has to stand out because it has to be better than the supermarkets, who sell it for a fraction of the cost, it has to be special. Each of the raviolis has a colour on it so my customers know which one their favourite flavour is just by looking at it.
How long have you been selling at the Byron Bay Farmers Market?
We’ve been doing this for about 3 years now. We have very separate roles; he does the sales, book work and accounting stuff, I just deal with making it. I don’t like selling because I tend to give it away and then we come home with no money! I’d be a very poor artist if he didn’t manage the front. It’s a good team.
Do you grow the ingredients yourself?
We grow some of the ingredients and whatever we don’t have we buy here at the market. We get some things in obviously, like the wheat. We use as much organic as we can. The eggs are ours and we organically feed the chickens.
Do you cook it and then freeze it?
No. It’s completely raw when I freeze it so you take it home and cook it.
How would you recommend that people eat it, would they put their own sauce on it?
With a lot of the raviolis, they’re really nice without a sauce. They’re nice just with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of cheese. I don’t recommend putting sauces with ravioli because you want to taste the filling. I would advise people who want to make a sauce to use really fresh tomatoes and don’t make it to heavy. Some people do a pesto, but the ravioli are best on their own.
2.The Bee to You honey stall
Why is there such a range of colour in your honey?
Usually, the lighter the honey is the milder it tastes. The darker ones are stronger.
What makes them lighter or darker?
It’s if it comes from different trees. I’ve got bee sites all over the place, about 40 odd sites in this area. I take the bees to the tree. I know when they’re flowering, and they all flower at different times. Even if there’s 2 trees flowering together I can tell the difference in the honey.
Are they different prices?
Nope, all the same. The only one that’s a bit dearer is this yellow box because it’s got a unique flavour. We get it from over the gorge, from the western slopes of the great divide, but the rest are local.
So you have to travel with your bees?
Any commercial bee keeper has to as you don’t get the trees flowering all year round.
How do you make sure that other people don’t pinch your honey?
No one is daft enough to go to the bee hive to get the honey! I haven’t had it happen but if it did, it would be another bee keeper. We’re all respectful of each other. A little bit goes on in the metropolitan areas. You get some one wanting to get into the industry quick and easy, so it does happen but not so much around here.
Do you do anything to it once it’s collected?
I don’t interfere with it, no. I don’t heat it or do anything.
So it turns crystallized?
Yeah. Some of them, especially if they’ve got more sugars, turn very quickly. If they turn I make creamed honey, which I just whip until it turns white. It takes quite a while but it turns white with the air going through it. I’ve only just sold the last one, otherwise I could show you!
3. Rainbow Fruit Flats dehydrated fruit stall
How are Rainbow Fruit Flats made?
We grow the fruit, we purée it and pour it on to dehydrating trays and leave it for 15 hours. It’s 100% fruit. I’ve been making them for 10 years.
There’s nothing added at all?
Only a plastic bag and a sticky label. It’s pure fruit.
Do you have a dehydrating machine then?
Yes, a dehydrator. We put the puréed fruit in there for 15 – 20 hours. The machine blows out air under 40 degrees.
Is there as much nutrients as eating the fruit fresh?
Yes, because it’s all done below 40 degrees so it’s not cooked.
Do you make it at home?
We’ve got an industrial kitchen. It’s all done at my farm.
Is that where you grow the fruit too?
How long do they keep for?
12 months. Same as anything dehydrated. Back in the old days they used to make dehydrated beef to take on the ships.
Do you find that children prefer to eat fruit in this way?
So long as you don’t tell them it’s not candy! They think they’re sweeties so we don’t tell them any different.
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