By Nicholas Kennedy, Communications Volunteer at Melbourne Farmers Markets.
Nuts are something of a fascination to me and right now we’re in the thick of the season. As far as their place within the grand food kingdom, there’s nothing quite like them. Savoury or sweet, with textures that bring personality to any dish they’re added to. You could say I’m absolutely…crazy about them (see what I didn’t do there?).
As always, Melbourne Farmers Markets is thrilled to bring Victoria’s fantastic independent nut producers to our many accredited farmers’ markets. With the season now in full swing and harvests completed, we touched base with a few of our stallholders to talk everything hazelnut, walnut, chestnut, and beyond!
Ben comes from a long line of farmers. Originally taking a different career in life, he returned to become the 5th generation, pivoting his original farming focus from cattle farming to hazelnuts. Quite the shift!
After planting his first trees back in 2015, Carboor Harvest was born. Now as the largest Aussie hazelnut grower, Carboor Harvest’s 12,500 trees dot the landscape in North East Victoria, in the shadow of Mount Buffalo. Ben, with his business partners Maxine & Antony, hope to drive that number to 87,000 trees in the next few years. That’s a lot of hazelnuts!
But what is the best way to eat them? Sure, you could blend them up into a nutty spread, but Ben’s go to method is dry roasting and rolling them in Mount Zero pink lake salt – “generally what you’ll find me snacking on during the market hours”, he says.
Find Carboor Harvest at Coburg FM 1st Saturdays, Collingwood Children’s Farm FM and Gasworks FM!
King Valley Walnuts are real MFM troopers, hitting Coburg FM, Gasworks FM and Alphington FM! Carol and Mike Kunert have been harvesting walnuts for around 15 years, and have been attending farmers’ markets around Melbourne for 12 years.
As Carol sees it, the value in farm to consumer nuts is a shortened supply chain. “You can pick a walnut off a tree and within a few weeks it’s in the hand of a customer”, resulting in a better product overall.
We asked Carol’s favourite way to eat walnuts – “walnut flour is great sprinkled on porridge” she says.
Or use walnut meal in any recipe that asks after ground nuts. Give it a go!
Catkin Grove Chestnuts – Henry ‘the Chestnut Man’ Kovacevic
Henry the Chestnut Man is a real character, but also a fantastic example of the meditative, enriching benefits of creating real connections with food. “This is my new year”, Henry says of the chestnut season. When Henry and his wife originally purchased their two acres of land in Daylesford, it came complete with sixty five chestnut trees, many which had been there for roughly 30 years. “Some things in life are out of our control…in this instance you could say the nuts chose me, rather than me choosing the nuts”, Henry says.
Eventually Henry came to understand the trees had a local reputation, and as their new caretaker, it was up to him to maintain the supply for chestnuts. Since then, Henry’s chestnuts have received “best-nuts-ever” props from chefs such as Attica’s Ben Shewry and Daylesford’s own Kaziku Tsuya.
However, a reputation amongst the culinary elite isn’t the only thing that Henry has earned – travellers from overseas tell Henry of the nostalgia his chestnuts provide, of foraging in the forests of Italy or South East Asian culinary delights.
Henry uses organic methods for his harvest every year – meaning they rely entirely on rain for their crop. Handpicked every Autumn, the returns can vary anywhere between 1.5 to 4.5 tonne.
Find Henry at Coburg FM’s 4th Saturdays, Collingwood FM, Gasworks FM, and Uni Melb FM, when in season. Fully stocked with chestnuts, Henry also roasts chestnuts on-site in a vintage roaster, given to him by an old friend Adrian Thomas, who has since passed away. “When I’m using the roaster I do feel like the spirit of Adrian is there with me” says Henry.
As for his favourite way to eat chestnuts? Can’t go wrong with freshly roasted nuts and a glass of red, says Henry, “adult popcorn” he calls it.
And, if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers – “roasted nuts, once they’re cool, chuck them in with some pasta, prosciutto, maybe some pancetta, lemon oil, wilted spinach” Henry says, “…delicious”.