News bites: spoons, soldiers and an SOS
It’s been another week of both good news and bad, which has pretty much become the general theme of everyday life thanks to our old mate COVID. Queensland strawberry growers’ situation is worsening, leading to the industry issuing an SOS (save our strawberries), begging consumers to buy their fruit to avoid it going to waste. With the blueberry season also now coming into its peak, it might be a good idea to stock up on them as well. Fortunately, berries are both delicious and bloody good for you, so it really isn’t that much of an ask. We’re cooking up a batch of jam right now.
But there’s also been plenty of good food news to be had. Australia Post has delivered a commitment that will make small food producers everywhere rejoice, and Aussie Defence Force veterans have stepped up to help our grain growers. But the heart-warming news we love the most this week concerns a certain farmer from the central western NSW town of Tottenham. Read on to find out just how much of a legend he is.
Australia Post commits to delivering perishable goods
Good news for food producers: Australia Post has made a long-term commitment to continue shipping perishable goods across Australia. The government-owned enterprise dealt a savage blow to small food businesses in April when it announced it would stop delivering perishable goods from June 30, but quickly back-tracked on the decision within a matter of days. However, a long-term solution has remained up in the air until now. This new commitment will provide certainty to the many businesses who rely heavily on Australia Post to ship their produce to customers, particularly those in rural and regional areas.
Unfortunately, this happy news coincided with the slightly less heartening announcement that parcel pick-up from e-commerce retailers in NSW, the ACT and Victoria has been put on pause from today until next Tuesday, due to hundreds of Australia Post staff having to self-isolate after potential COVID exposure. No good deed goes unpunished, eh?
The strawberry crisis continues, with farmers pleading with shoppers to buy strawberries now or the fruit will be destroyed. Strawberry growers across Queensland are at the peak of their season, and because of COVID, sales have fallen by 50 percent and retail prices have been slashed, falling below the cost of production. Some farmers have started to spray their strawberry crops to stop them from growing, simply because they can’t afford to pick, pack or transport them. Queensland Strawberry Growers’ Association president Adrian Schultz says that the best thing consumers can do to help our growers is go and grab a couple of punnets while they’re at such a good price and at their peak juicy best.
For creative and delicious recipe ideas using in-season strawberries, click here.
MFWF cancels festival
“The challenges around lockdowns and restrictions related to COVID-19 continue to affect event planning, and it is with a heavy heart that we have made this decision,” says Anthea Loucas Bosha, CEO of Food + Drink Victoria, the not-for-profit company behind MFWF. “We rescheduled the festival twice to try and find a place on the calendar where we could run the event safely, but these plans are no longer workable in the current environment.”
The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival will return in 2022 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. In the meantime, the festival will continue to support the industry across its channels. For news and updates, visit melbournefoodandwine.com.au and @melbfoodandwine
Singin’ the blues
Blueberries are now also in peak season, so while you’re picking up some strawbs, you might want to grab some bloobs, too. Here are some pro tips to make the most of them:
• The darker the blueberry, the riper it is, as the anthocyanin content (the antioxidant that creates the blue/purple colour) increases as the blueberries ripen.
• You can store blueberries in the fridge for up to 10 days.
• The silvery sheen on the skin of blueberries is a naturally occurring compound that helps protect the fruit. So only wash your blueberries right before you’re going to eat them.
• For parents who are home-schooling right now (we salute you), blueberries are the perfect snack for your reluctant students – recent research found that a serving of fresh blueberries every day can help improve memory recall in children.
For blueberry recipe inspiration, head to australianblueberries.com.au
Not such a hard nut to crack
Today (September 4) is Macadamia Nut Day, a day to celebrate our native nuts and the dynamic farming industry that grows them. Macadamias are certainly a buttery delight to eat, but they also offer some awesome nutritional benefits, which include supporting healthy brain function and helping to reduce cognitive decline, boosting heart and gut health and promoting good mental wellbeing. To help you get into the spirit of the day, Australian Macadamias has shared this cracking tip. Literally.
When selecting your nut, look for the while dot on the top of the macadamia shell – that will be the best spot to crack it. Essentially, the macadamia is a seed and its shape is designed for germination. So the area where it “sprouts” has a thinner shell. The white dot, called the micropyle by macadamia growers, is known to be a weak spot.
Spoons for solidarity
A Tottenham farmer has started a movement to send a message of support and solidarity to locked-down urban Australians. While in the throes of drought and, more recently, a mice plaque, central west NSW farmer Terry Fishpool was touched by the support he received from city folk across the country, saying the compassion that was shown to farmers “made us feel that we weren’t alone”. Now Fishpool is paying it forward for all the urbanites stuck in lockdown, creating the #hangaspoon initiative. #hangaspoon encourages farmers to hang a spoon on their farm gate, mailbox or in their window as a gesture of solidarity and the significant connection between country and city. We couldn’t love this more.
For Fishpool, it’s an important reminder that, no matter where Australians live, we stand together during difficult times. To support his idea, all farmers need to do is hang a spoon (the bigger the better), take a pic and upload it to socials with the hashtag #hangaspoon.
Aussie veterans mobilise to help grain growers
Former Australian servicemen and women have swapped tanks for tractors in a bid to relieve pressure on farmers crippled by COVID-19 workforce shortages. Operation Grain Harvest Assist will see Aussie veterans stationed on grain farms throughout the country, bolstering the supply of local workers to help with this year’s bumper grains harvest. With increased workforce shortages limiting many parts of Australia’s grains supply chain, the initiative – a joint collaboration between AgForce Qld, WA Farmers, former Australian Defence Force servicemen and women and Grain Producers Australia – will recruit willing workers with the transferable skills needed to operate heavy machinery and carry out other harvesting jobs. Two Facebook pages will link workers to harvest jobs – one for farms in Queensland, NSW and Victoria and the other for WA and SA.
For those of you who buy your groceries online from Woolies, you may notice that more items are “temporarily unavailable” right now. Unlike the toilet paper wars of 2020, this time around shortages have less to do with surges in customer demand and more to do with staffing problems. Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci has confirmed that more than 3300 staff members are currently in isolation due to the Delta outbreak. With so many staff at the supermarket’s distribution centres in isolation, this is having an impact on stock levels in some stores, meaning some products aren’t available. So if you’re shopping online in NSW or the ACT, Woolies is currently automatically allowing substitutions on all orders. Banducci says that the company knows this “isn’t ideal”, but it does mean there’s less chance of you missing out on an essential item. He also says that the company aims to get back up to speed and revert to normal operations “as soon as we possibly can”.
Aria announces new exec chef
Matt Moran and Solotel have announced the appointment of Thomas Gorringe as the new Executive Chef of Aria. Gorringe previously held the role of Head Chef at Pier One’s hatted restaurant, The Gantry, and will take over the reins from Joel Bickford as he departs for a new role. Gorringe will join general manager Alex Kirkwood in spearheading the creation of Aria Wine Bar, set to launch next year. Offering an alternative to the traditional Aria experience, guests can enjoy wines by the glass alongside a produce-driven snack-style menu, whether stopping by for a casual drink or pulling up a seat for the evening.
Water security for the future
Finish has reignited its #FinishWaterWaste initiative in 2021, with a new focus that looks towards the future to prioritise water security and help safeguard Australian farmers against drought. Despite good rainfall earlier this year, which allowed a number of drought-affected areas to start recuperating, local water supplies are still recovering and remain below the levels they need to sustain rural communities. More periods of above-average rainfall and better water security measures are needed to continue drought recovery across the country. Finish has partnered with Rural Aid, with the support of Coles, to raise awareness of the struggle with drought, delivering critical water tanks to rural communities in need. For every in-store purchase at Coles of Finish Quantum Ultimate Pro from now until October 26, Finish will donate $1 towards water tanks for farmers via Rural Aid.
To find out more about how to #FinishWaterWaste, head to finishwaterwaste.com.au
The first ever 24-hour IKEA Festival
With so many Australians stuck at home and bored out of their minds, IKEA is inviting people to take part in a retail-first – a global 24-hour IKEA festival which will be held on Thursday, September 16. Well-known artists, designers, DJs, chefs and more will turn their homes into virtual stages, with the program featuring intimate concerts and DJ relays, home visits, food demos with popular chefs, livestream gaming sessions, behind-the-scenes at IKEA and kitchen talks on all things life at home. The IKEA Festival will take place in more than 50 countries across the world and is free and open to everyone.
To access the IKEA Festival and get the full program, head to the festival page at ikea.com/festival. The festival will start from 4pm on Thursday, September 16.
A really super bowl
Looking for a quick and easy lunch or dinner option that’s also good for you? Pitango has launched a new range of Wellness Bowls. Known for its fresh, nutritious soups and risottos, the bowls are Pitango’s first chilled, ready-to-heat meals. They feature healthy grains, organic vegies sourced from local growers and ethical free-range meats, all vac-sealed for locked-in freshness, flavour and separation of ingredients. Each meal features at least two serves of veg and great sources of fibre and protein, they contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, no added sugar and are low in salt. The range includes:
Pitango Wellness Bowls are available from Coles, IGA and all good independent stores.
Just in case you missed it…
This week, Eativity got the lowdown on a new low GI sugar that could be a global game changer for the type 2 diabetes epidemic. We also found out how plant-based milks are produced and were surprised at just how sustainable the process can be. With strawberry farmers in desperate straits, we also shared some deliciously creative ways that you can make the most of the abundance of in-season strawberries that are flooding retail. Buy a punnet or three to help our growers. We also shared some easy Father’s Day recipes that the whole family can pitch in to help prepare – give them a try and make Dad’s day. Finally, we were inspired by the Australian dairy farmers who are taking control back into their own hands by cutting out the middleman and producing their own branded products.