Growers pleased to “have someone batting for us’
When food writer Kathy Paterson was growing up on a cropping farm out of Christchurch and her father left a swede by the back door she would think, “Oh, no, not swede for tea”.
But now the former president of New Zealand Food Writers is an enthusiastic promoter of all fresh vegetables, and was guest speaker at the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association’s (PVGA) recent annual meeting.
She congratulated growers on the assocation celebrating its centenary this year and said she had the greatest respect for them and the demands they now faced on their rich, fertile land. As well as being a regular writer in the New Zealand Herald’s Bite magazine she is also working on two books. One is a reprint of The New Zealand Rugby Kitchen, which is made up of recipes contributed by players with proceeds going to disabled players. Whereas five years ago family recipes were sent in she said this time all of them came from the Internet – “apart from Sean Fitzpatrick’s aunty’s chocolate fudge”. And two of the players contributing recipes were vegan.
She is also working on her own book, Meat and Three, which she said aimed to take readers back to how people ate on farms several decades ago when a lamb roast was cooked and then was used as the base for the two following meals.
“I hope people will go back to our traditions,” she said.
She was using all New Zealand-sourced ingredients in the book apart from rice. “The only other thing I stumbled on was some spices.”
A typical meal might be based on charred sweetcorn and lightly steamed green beans.
“That’s interesting and healthy and then people will put meat with it,” she said. She also worked with Chinese immigrants wanting to know how to cook lamb, where she was able to provide a number of different dishes using a variety of cuts as well as a range of vegetables.
When it came to food trends she said most originated in the United States. Millenials were moving to more plantbased meals with many becoming flexitarians or having meat-free days every week. Market research showed that people under 40 had increased their vegetable intake by 60% in recent years and there had also been a 90% increase recorded in searches on google for vegan recipes.
“There are more plant-based start-up companies,” she said.
One food becoming more popular was vegan cheese which was in strong demand as a pizza topping.
But legal definitions were coming into to play more, with for example, a broccoli “steak” not able to be named as such in France.
Paterson said some other trends were an increase in the variety of Indian fast food, and Korean food, with both cuisines featuring the use of many different vegetables. Zhug, an Israeli/ Yemeni spice paste, was becoming increasingly popular and tasted great with grilled vegetables, she said.
More varieties of vegetable pizza crusts were being seen which were made from different vegetables bound together with chick pea flour. And lamb burgers were having blended mushroom and soy added so there was less meat content
“And are hemp seeds going to be the new pumpkin seeds?” she asked.
When it came to lab meat she said it was getting pretty good. It needed to look as if it was meat and should be more cost effective to produce. But meat still had a lot to offer and alternatives might mean more demand for the real thing, especially when it came to the premium end of the market, which was what meat producers could concentrate on supplying.
When it came to substitutes for chicken she said she had tasted the product but found it “a bit weird, a bit rubbery”. More work needed to be done with getting students to cook so as adults they could make educated choices about what food they ate.
Immediate PVGA past-president, Brent Wilcox, said it was clear there was a tremendous amount of opportunity at present for vegetables and growers were the first promoters of their product. He asked how many times a week she ate kale, which she said depended for many people on how old they were, how good their teeth were and personal taste. The stem, which could be very firm, could be taken out of the leaves and she often used this in a quiche which made it “quite delicious”.
She bought vegetables at Farro Fresh, greengrocers and farmers’ markets but avoided supermarkets and also sellers who used too much plastic packaging. “It just doesn’t appeal - it’s not as fresh,” she said.
“For me it’s all about the freshness.” She grew her own spinach and chard and her herb garden at her Kingsland home kept her supplied year-round. Former Vegetables NZ Inc president, Keith Vallabh, thanked her for her efforts to make vegetables centre of the plate for diners.
“It’s great to have someone batting for us.”
▶ Food writer, Kathy Paterson, with an array of fresh vegetables.