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.