The days are shortening, the mornings are dark, the leaves are turning gold at the edges, but at the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market the ears of the sweetest corn and the ugliest root vegetables are beckoning at Elphin Grove Farm.
Late summer sees the arrival at the market of ears of local corn to add delicious touches of gold to the last warm weather barbeques and salads. Steamed, grilled or boiled, eaten straight from the cob or shaven kernels, local grown sweetcorn is full of flavour and healthy nutrients. Slim and elegant sheaths of pale green enclose baby corn that for its size packs a big punch of taste. These very same baby corns will mature to become popcorn, which when paired with salt flavours from A pinch of… are a very special treat.
Alongside the sheaths of corn, the rough, knobbly, leathery, ugly celeriac is gaining in popularity as market goers unearth its creamy white flesh that tastes of parsley and celery. Above ground it has a top of green, celery-like growth radiating from the central knob. Pull this top up and what you unearth looks like a turnip gone wrong, is how Matt and Ruth Young of Elphin Grove Farm describe the celeriac.
Celeriac is a perfect non-starch substitute for potatoes. Half a cup contains only 30 calories, no fat and provides an excellent source of dietary fibre. Celeriac is diverse and can be mashed, boiled, french-fried or even grated raw into salad. To prepare simply peel it and keep it in acidulated water until ready to use.
Elphin Grove Farm is a family run business, operating on 220 hectares in East Sassafras near Latrobe. With the loss of processing contracts some years ago, Mathew and Ruth Young were looking at other areas of growth for their business. A local vegetable wholesaler gave them an “ugly turnip looking thing” and told them to try growing it. After a bit of research, a trial patch of celeriac was started. “This meant we had to get seedlings grown and then work out how we were going to plant them. We started with 1,500 plants, they required regular irrigation and fertilisation. As it was a small patch we weeded it by hand.” Today the trial has grown to 50,000 plants and their celeriac is now sold locally and interstate.
The corn is not an entirely new product for the family, as they used to grow it but stopped when food-processing contracts were cancelled and moved offshore. After talking to some local grocers they recognised a gap in the market for local sweet corn, as the majority of what was available locally was from the mainland and up to five days old before reaching shop shelves. “We decided to give it go again.” This time without the pressure of other crops working against them, their corn was a success. Then Robyn from A pinch of … was asking about popcorn, Matt started doing some research to discover that the baby corn was popping corn when mature, which means that todayTasmanians can get their popcorn locally.
Apart from celeriac and corn, Elphin Grove farms peas for Simplot, poppies for Tasmanian Alkaloids, prime lamb and beef for the local butcher markets. The farm adheres to the Freshcare quality insurance program with a focus on sustainability and profitability.
Ruth and Matt will be at Harvest Launceston this week with their celeriac and corn crops.