Dare I say I was a child of the sixties – passing the big “Welcome to Hastings” sign in Karamu Road every weekend when we went to Napier to see my grandparents for Sunday afternoon tea and on the odd occasions we ventured out in the old Anglia. Outings in the bay always centred around family, food, beaches and rivers.
The Fruit Bowl of New Zealand – simple words but forever etched in my mind and probably all of us who grew up in Hawkes Bay. The large sign in Karamu Road had a fruit bowl overflowing with pears, peaches, plums, apples, grapes and a quince thrown in for good measure.
At the time we took for granted what the seasons delivered to us. Growing up in a large family – many a hot summer afternoon was spent around the outside BBQ table peeling case upon never-ending case of pears, peaches and apples (usually “seconds’). Always under a bit of pressure to get them finished before “the brown” set in. For many children growing up in Hawke’s Bay a good few decades ago it seemed like almost a rite de passage….and not a very exciting one at that.
At the time it was a truly tedious job but looking back it must have been even harder for Mum who spent many hot summer days (and nights) “bottling” and she always filled our whole laundry wall with jar after jar of preserves to feed the family in the year ahead. The laundry wall was our pantry: bottled fruit, tomato soup and sauces – all earthquake-proofed behind a white stretch of curtain wire.
Over the years the number of Hawke’s Bay orchard gates selling fruit has dwindled significantly. Orchard after orchard used to have with lengthy signs advertising several varieties of each fruit. At a young age I could reel off a list of fruit varieties memorised from the gate signs. I used to sit in the backseat of the car, cross my fingers and hope that Mum and Dad would buy the Golden Delicious NOT Cox’s Orange, get excited when they would turn into a long driveway that had Blackboy Peaches and my heart would sink when we drove home with a bushel of dreaded quinces in the boot. Broadbeans … well those memories are a whole other story!
Times may have changed but my love of Hawke’s Bay seasonal fare has definitely not. I can predict summer rain based around the fact that the Golden Queens are ready (seems to happen every year), have my collection of preserving and jam jars waiting for feijoas, plums, figs, apples and everything else that can be bottled and now truly appreciate the fantastic Fruitbowl of New Zealand where I live.
I now understand why my aunties and uncles would, in summer, travel from Lower Hutt or Northland to Hawkes Bay with an empty car boot and boxes. They would journey home with their cars laden with fruit, my cousins often piled up on top of each other so that more fruit could be fitted in.
Enjoying a precious acre and a bit to grow our own seasonal fare, we now find ourselves boxing up fruit to send to Auckland, delivering bottled peaches to Palmerston North and packing Hawke’s Bay “goodies” to send to friends and family overseas – sharing the Hawke’s Bay love so to speak.
Hawkes Bay Pantry has grown from my love of living, gardening, growing and cooking in Hawkes Bay. The talent in Hawke’s Bay is exceptional and when skilled local growers, producers and artisans make the most of the weather, the produce and our unique environment – great things happen.
We hope Hawke’s Bay Pantry will give you a “Taste of the Bay” no matter where you live.