What you can do with 100,000+ fei­joa

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

Matt and Melissa’s

block was orig­i­nally home to 2000 fei­joa trees. The pre­vi­ous owners were com­mer­cial grow­ers Linda and Trevor Swan; Linda’s fa­ther, Den­nis Bar­ton, de­vel­oped fei­joa va­ri­eties in­clud­ing Unique (the one you’ll find in most back­yards), Bar­ton and Den’s Choice. The Swans thought no-one would be crazy enough to buy land with that many fei­joa trees, so they chopped out 1500 and left Matt and Melissa with enough to keep them out of trou­ble.

“We touch-pick them so they don’t fall off the tree,” says Melissa. “That’s so that they don’t bruise and they have a longer shelf life. They go off to Turn­ers and Grow­ers and su­per­mar­kets, and we sell them at the lo­cal farmer’s mar­ket, at a cou­ple of lit­tle lo­cal stores, and at a friend’s road­side farm shop.”

Their first crop was just a cou­ple of tonnes, but it was enough.

“The first year we ba­si­cally would pick and sort it all by hand, and we work­ing up un­til 10-11pm ev­ery night,” says Matt. “We’d just had James – he was born dur­ing the sec­ond week of the fei­joa har­vest – and if we had done nine tonnes back then I think we’d prob­a­bly have bull­dozed the lot.”

Things took a turn for the bet­ter when the Swan’s sold them their fruit grad­ing ma­chine, which sped things up dra­mat­i­cally.

“Ini­tially it was quite funny,” says Melissa. “I couldn’t un­der­stand why Matt wanted to spend more money on these bloody fei­joas! Then af­ter the first year I was like ‘I get it, I’m glad we bought it’.”

Sell­ing fresh fruit only gets rid of so many fei­joas. The an­swer to the glut was to turn it into juice.

“We send it up to Green­ways Juices (in the Waikato) and they make it for us. They’ve got a big com­mer­cial juice press that does two tonnes per press so we grow it, they send it back and then we sell it. They do a lot of juice them­selves so we buy ap­ple juice from them and they mix it.”

“The first year we ba­si­cally would pick and sort it all by hand... if we had done nine tonnes back then... we’d have bull­dozed the lot.”

The cou­ple pro­cessed nine tonnes of fei­joa this year, turn­ing most of it into their own juice prod­ucts.

Top: the fei­joas are the re­mains of a much-larger or­chard and fea­ture orig­i­nal va­ri­eties by renowned grow­ers Linda and Trevor Swan. Right: the sheep keep the grass down, and are even­tu­ally turned into the fam­ily’s home­kill meat sup­ply.

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