Rakiraki Market before Cyclone

I had the chance to photograph Rakiraki Market working with UN Women in Fiji. Since then it has been flooded (the day after I was there) and now has been severely impacted by Cyclone Winston.  The vendors were very kind and friendly considering I was not there to purchase their produce. The marketplace has no doubt been damaged but worse will be the crops from which the vendors make their income. As seen in Vanuatu, it takes some growers the best part of a year before they get back to similar levels of crops post cyclone.

Any support for Rakiraki and Fiji is sure to be appreciated.

 

Vanilla Pioneer departs Vanuatu

After 28 yrs of Vanilla production in Vanuatu Pierro Bianchessi has left for Italy, his homeland. An organic chemist, Bianchessi arrived in Vanuatu in 1987 and found the perfect climate for growing vanilla. He established Venui Vanilla and by 1991 demand had increased beyond what he could produce on his own land. Growers were contracted and trained from northern islands in Vanuatu, processing 2000-2500 tons of vanilla each year at the peak of production. Certified organic from 1997, Pierro marketed the vanilla himself at food shows in Europe, NZ , Australia and New Caledonia. Venui Vanilla quickly became Vanuatu’s premiere artisan food producer.

Vanilla needs a dry coolish winter of 7-8 weeks for successful pollination and although this was possible initially the amount of vanilla being processed has now dropped to 2-300kg per year. Bianchessi states this is a direct result of climate change.

Venui Vanilla now also produces peppercorns, turmeric, chillies and ginger and to reflect this has been rebranded Venui Vanilla - Spices of Vanuatu. Venui would have to process five times the amount of peppercorns to replace the value of the declining vanilla crop according to Bianchessi.

New Zealand has strong links with Venui. An Auckland based graphic designer created the cool looking soft packaging and New Zealand’s BioGro Organic Certification was achieved in 2013. This certification also covers the 200 small farmers who supply the company.

A new manager has been found and the company has been sold to LCM, a very established grocery business based in Luganville. A new cold pressed centrifugal coconut oil processing facility is being built as a result of the new investment.

Although departing, Bianchessi was optimistic the organic ethos of Venui will continue. He believes Vanuatu has a good future with food production as it remains naturally organic, the last of the Pacific Islands to be in this state.

 

Distributing seeds post Cyclone Pam

Getting seeds back in the ground was an urgent need post Cyclone Pam. I was asked by UN Women to photograph one of the seed distribution events at Marobe Market in Efate. Being immersed among two hundred women patiently waiting for their allotment of seeds is something I will not forget in a hurry.

Every person given seeds had their name recorded one by one and Alice Kalo showed amazing patience and resilience to complete the job, writing each name by hand. Some of the seeds were handed out to individuals at the market while others decided to wait until getting home.

The allocation per person was 23 pumpkin seeds, 9 pawpaw seeds, 8 watermelon seeds, 30-40 sweetcorn seeds and approx 35 dwarf bean seeds.

 

Making Lap Lap in Vanuatu

Lap lap is a traditional Vanuatu dish wrapped in leaves and cooked above ground on hot stones. Mangaliliu Village has a strong heritage in making lap lap and this was seen when staying in the village recently.

Starting at 6 AM (photography in this light was a treat) the lap lap was made on Sunday morning by the women and children from the extended family for lunch following a session in Church.

With no fridge available two chickens were freshly slaughtered for the occasion and were plucked by the children. Aside from the lap lap faol seen here (chicken), other versions are dakdak (duck), fis (fish), mit (meat), taro, maniok (cassava), yam and banana. There are also regional variations.

 

GoodBuzz in Wainuiomata

Kombucha, booch and SCOBY are new words in my vocab after a visit to photograph the GoodBuzz soft drink factory in Wainuiomata. The GoodBuzz process combines sugar, tea and water (from the Te Puna Wai Ora artesian aquifer in Petone) with the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and turns into an effervescent, healthy, non-alcoholic  drink.

In the short time GoodBuzz has been operating they already have  five kombucha brews in more than 60 cafes in Wellington, Christchurch, Hawkes Bay, New Plymouth and Nelson, and recently have been included in Auckland’s Nosh outlets.

The drinks come in five flavours - Origins, Green Jasmin, Lemon and Ginger, Jade Dew and Feijoia. A new brew made with coffee cherry (the outer red skin of  discarded coffee beans from  Go Bang in Petone)  with an amazing light apple flavour is coming soon.

Each  brew takes 8-10 days to ferment and another 7-10 days of bottle conditioning before heading out the door. The best before date is four months unchilled (a bonus when there is space restrictions in the fridge), and can be extended to nine months if refrigerated.

Another buzz emanating from the factory came from discovering owner Alex Campbell and I grew up in the same small Northland town – Kaikohe. This is where Alex’s first memories of kombucha came from – his grandmother Amy made what she called Manchurian Mushroom tea in the 1970’s. Kaikohe Kombucha - who would have thought?

 

 

 

Buying Local Food | Murray Lloyd Photograph

The markets will be crammed with lovely fresh produce now spring has arrived and in NZ we can find locally produced food easily. Not so elsewhere.

In Britain, a local government report said a quarter of food could not be verified as local in one county. In North Wales only half the meat sold as Welsh lamb was found to be Welsh and in an English restaurant "Hampshire spring lamb" was sold which was actually from New Zealand.

In Canada the government have changed the criteria on what constitutes local. The government say the food just has to come from within the same province to be called local. In Canada this could mean a 1500km journey. Previously a 50km radius was deemed local.  Here is a funny take on local food.

Oritain is a New Zealand company based in Dunedin specialising in food verification. Their mission statement states Oritain can independently and scientifically verify the origin of food products to a forensic standard. The consumers in Canada and Britain would clearly benefit from their services.

 

Italian Flavours in Paraparaumu | Murray Lloyd Photography

Basil grown from seed in full sunshine, Isle of Capri tomatoes freshly plucked from the garden and fresh buffalo mozzarella - Insalata Caprese -  It is quite simply one of the greatest pleasures of summer and is one of my favourite dishes . The flavours and textures work together brilliantly - here's to Italian food.

Caprese salad photographed from above with coloured glass and green platter.
Caprese salad photographed from above with coloured glass and green platter.