The six varieties of feijoa (Unique, Opal Star, Triumph, Wiki 2, Pounamu and Kakapo) will span the harvest season of April to June, and will be hand-harvested. In their natural habitat in South America, they ripen all year round.
“But here, we just have to enjoy them while they’re here,” said Margaret. Having said that, she then detailed other possible uses of feijoas apart from eating them fresh: the Macbeths may sell pulp for use in ice-cream, and have also bought a juicer, for processing-grade fruit.
Margaret and Hamish like the support and information sharing that growers’ groups bring, and belong to both the
Coastwide Growers’ Association and the smaller Karamea Growers’ Group. Margaret has also been a member of the Biodynamic Association for 25 years and uses the preparations occasionally.
“But we’re very lean on organics here on the West Coast,” says Margaret.
She could think of only two other certified producers: Miner’s Brewery in Westport (producers of Green Fern lager)
and a dairy farm at Franz Josef (due to be profiled in Organic NZ shortly – Ed).
There were certified organic tamarillo growers in Karamea in the 1980s but they suffered major marketing and
transport issues. With only one road out of Karamea, with its isolation, petrol price hikes, and the availability of petrol
recently disrupted, transport will continue to be a challenge for growers and for the community as a whole.
Margaret remains upbeat, saying that demand for their tea tree oil is steadily increasing as people discover that there is a high quality, New Zealand-produced organic oil available. The Macbeths’ next project is to build a distilling shed, which will make distilling an easier process and keep the weather out. I look forward to seeing it when I next visit.
Tea tree, not manuka
Australian tea tree is not to be confused with manuka or kanuka, which are sometimes called tea tree in New Zealand. Margaret initially researched the possibility of growing manuka for its oil, but when she got some locally-grown manuka distilled she discovered that it wasn’t “active”; it wasn’t high in anti-bacterial properties. This is the case with some manuka around New Zealand, with the notable exception of the East Coast.
Interestingly though, manuka honey produced in parts of New Zealand where the oil is not active, can have anti-bacterial and healing properties. Another drawback Margaret found was that manuka oil takes about five hours to distil, and yields are low compared with Australian tea tree.
Organic through and through
In keeping with the philosophy of organics, the Macbeths are actively looking after the environment and running their business in the most eco-friendly way they can. In 2001 True Blue Organics won the West Coast Tai Poutini Environmental Award for its contribution to the environment.
Tea tree is the main crop but the Macbeths are believers in biodiversity and self-sufficiency, and grow a huge range of things, including the calendula used in the TLC cream. The home orchard has pears, nashis, plums, lemons, feijoas, and a range of apples, including Dayton, Sir Prize and Akane (all from Treedimensions), and some seedlings.