Tasmanian Produce:  one of the strengths of the Australian island state.  The Tasmanian vegetable industry, particularly vibrant in the north west coast, is campaigning to have the region declared the Food Bowl of the Nation. Fresh and sometimes organic food is such a precious commodity, and with or without national recognition,  the whole of Tassie does it well. In fact, it’s an absolute crime to waste or destroy such good, healthy food during the storing or cooking process.

Tasmanian Produce - Hilbarn Fruit & Vegetables

Tasmanian produce: food bowl of the nation

The Apple Isle: Good Tasmanian Produce

And there’s the story behind this story. We’ve been buying groceries by the boxful from a Tasmanian couple whose combined forces make up Hilbarn. Based in Karoola in the north east of Tasmania, their mission is to share a love of fresh Tasmanian produce. They source their goods locally, within a two-hour radius of nearby Launceston, buying directly from the grower.

Packed neatly into a cardboard box and delivered on a weekly or fortnightly basis, the produce is guaranteed to be fresh and seasonal. You are given the origin of the fruit and vegetables, which are sometimes certified as organic. Sometimes the produce is sourced thanks to a backyard fruit tree producing a surplus. Hilbarn have been making their fresh food boxes available to the public for two years.

Tasmanian Produce - Fruit and Vegetables

Tasmanian produce: stone fruits

Surprise! It’s Fruit and Vegetables

Using the Hilbarn system, you don’t personally choose the Tasmanian fruit and vegetables supplied, but rather lift the lid to a surprise bounty. And for a serious foodie, this would lead to a host of delightful, gourmet meals. Unfortunately, I can’t lay claim to such a status. On delivery days, I usually initiate an internet search: just what is tatsoi? And more to the point, what on earth do you do with it?

Tasmanian Produce - Hilbarn Fruit and Vegetables

Tasmanian produce: home delivery

If the random-goods system doesn’t suit, you can personally select your own fresh, seasonal Tasmanian produce from a host of quality markets throughout the state. The Trevallyn Grocer for example (on the tourist route to the Cataract Gorge Reserve or Trevallyn Dam in Launceston) takes pride in supporting local producers. But once you have your environmentally-friendly bag filled with gorgeous fruit and vegetables, you still need to know how to prepare it.

Tasmanian Produce - Hilbarn Beans

Tasmanian vegetable industry staple: green beans

Tasmanian Produce: Local Inspiration

Like half the country, I am addicted to cooking shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules, and love watching competitors whip up their fantastic concoctions. I even thought the juniors, including local lad Jack Lark, were very impressive. But sadly, just watching the shows has barely raised my culinary skills above acceptable. Even Victor’s inspiring Foodtrail blog has yet to lead to an improvement in fortune for my hungry family.

At the end of each work day, I usually stand at the pantry door, wondering how to conjure something vaguely resembling a meal from the paltry contents. So… I have booked a place at a cooking demonstration! That might sound like a run-of-the-mill thing to do, but it’s a big step for me. It’s pretty daunting to think I might be exposed as the only person in a crowded room that doesn’t know what tatsoi is!!

For the record, tatsoi is an Asian salad green, shaped like a spoon and dark green in colour.  Rich in vitamins, it is usually eaten raw but can be cooked in soups, pasta or a stir fry and can be compared to bok choi.  Tatsoi is not regularly available at the grocery store, but can be found at specialty markets…  or maybe in one of the boxes from Hilbarn, of course!

Hopes for the Tasmanian Gourmet Vegetable Industry

But the thought of wasting even a single chance to appreciate and enjoy the wealth of Tasmanian produce on offer, is enough to have me booking my place and marking my diary. Hopefully I’ll be able to write another article in the immediate future about my foray into real cooking. With not a can opener in sight, nor a burnt saucepan to speak of. Fingers crossed… for me, the Tasmanian vegetable industry and any local produce arriving in my kitchen!!

Tasmanian Produce - Tasmanian Vegetable Industry Tomatoes

Tasmanian vegetable industry: ripe tomatoes