Colleen and Ian Francis started The Starlight Springs Farm in Myponga, South Australia and have been farming heirloom vegetables for the past fourteen years. Matt Moran pays them a visit.
Colleen and Ian are first generation farmers and 60% of the produce they grow are heirloom varieties. There are literally hundreds of different varieties of every fruit and vegetable on Earth, but most of us are only familiar with a handful of them, because they’re the ones we buy in the supermarket. However, some of the lesser known varieties are called heirloom vegetables and come in all shapes and sizes and are renowned for their full flavour.
Heirloom vegetables might look different but Colleen teaches people that produce doesn’t have to be perfect, their imperfections are in fact beautiful and the taste cannot be surpassed.
Many heirloom varieties are harder to grow then the hybrid seeds used in commercial farming. Heirloom tomatoes, for example, are not as abundant croppers as the hybrids, so you won’t get the same money in return.
Get Matt Moran's Heirloom Vegetable Mezze Plate recipe here
As the global population grows, the demand for fresh produce grows and farmers and supermarkets’ jobs get harder. In many Western countries, consumers want to have access to all produce all year round, rather than buying only what’s grown seasonally and locally. To satisfy that demand, produce has to be imported and must travel 1000s of miles to reach us.
However, fruit and vegetables weren’t designed to do that certain varieties of fruit / veg are favoured or even specifically bred, so that they can:
• withstand 1000s of travel miles
• have a long shelf life (to reduce throwing away profit / waste)
• have a uniform shape and are aesthetically pleasing
But all of this has come at a cost. And the cost is flavour. So there’s been a movement by some of the smaller producers to bring these old varieties back into favour. Most are found in farmer’s markets, but even the supermarkets are beginning to stock a few here and there.