Straw­ber­ries ever-pop­u­lar

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By IRIS RIDDELL

Stu­art Broomhall likes his straw­ber­ries straight from the plant. ‘‘A big one, whole, at room tem­per­a­ture like red wine,’’ the Pip­pins Or­chard owner said.

‘‘Ev­ery­one has their own way with them of course, they’ll take them away and dip them in choco­late or cover them in liqueur and ic­ing su­gar, good­ness knows what.’’

The straw­berry sea­son is get­ting into full swing, which means there’s plenty of work to be done at Pip­pins.

Mr Broomhall has been man­ag­ing the Mata­mata busi­ness with wife Raewyn for the past 21 years. And with their daugh­ter Amy work­ing as head florist in their floristry depart­ment, it’s some­thing of a fam­ily busi­ness.

‘‘When we first started, we re­ally needed to get stuck in to get the plas­tic in and get the ground ready,’’ he said.

‘‘We had about a thou­sand of these jolly plants, we had the plas­tic, we used fam­ily and a few friends and had a bar­be­cue af­ter­wards. But the next morn­ing we could hardly walk be­cause we weren’t used to the work. But like any job, we got used to it.’’

They’ve been steadily build­ing up the prop­erty since then, and also grow ap­ples, pears, plums and rasp­ber­ries to sell in the on­site shop.

The main straw­berry crop is a va­ri­ety called Ca­marosa, said Mr Broomhall, which is well-suited to this part of New Zealand.

‘‘We’re also tri­alling three va­ri­eties this year: Al­bion, Palo­mar and San­tana. We’ve planted out three rows so we can see how well they grow, what the flavour is like, and what peo­ple want.’’

There is a lot of vari­a­tion be­tween straw­berry cul­ti­vars re­gard­ing flavour, tex­ture and mat­u­ra­tion, but it doesn’t make much dif­fer­ence to the cus­tomers.

‘‘We mar­ket a straw­berry as a straw­berry, whereas if you go to buy an ap­ple you buy a Granny Smith or a Pa­cific Rose.’’

Most of the peo­ple em­ployed at Pip­pins are lo­cals, hail­ing from Mata­mata, Wal­ton, Ti­rau and the sur­round­ing ar­eas.

Or­chard worker Kylie Par­son­age has just re­turned to work over sum­mer.

‘‘I worked here all through school and univer­sity, from when I was 15 to about the age of 21. It’s per­fect tim­ing for me, my kids are off to school now and I re­ally en­joy it,’’ she said.

As sum­mer rolls in, so do the sum­mer fruits. ‘‘Cus­tomers up here want straw­ber­ries up un­til Christ­mas time, then they move in to peaches, nec­tarines, cher­ries, the early ap­ples and what have you. There’s a real fruit salad that’s start­ing to be­come avail­able now,’’ said Mr Broomhall.

Ready: Pip­pins Or­chard owner Stu­art Broomhall in­spects this year’s straw­berry crop.

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