An important ingredient in creating a high-quality, unique dining experience in the Northern Rivers is the diversity and availability of quality local produce – many restauranteurs have praised the sustainability, friendliness and innovation of our local suppliers in these pages.
A growing niche market is for native foods, and a recent partnership between Indigenous organisation Currie Country and experienced grower Pocket Herbs & Produce is producing award-winning bush foods to supply restaurants. Byron Bay’s Karkalla restaurant, for example, showcase native foods and the restaurant is named after the karkalla plant (pictured), for which Pocket Herbs is a 2021 state winner of the ‘Earth Category’ in the Delicious Harvey Norman Produce Awards; karkalla is one of the heroes in the Pocket Herbs ‘Native Foods with Currie Country’ range. The company has spent the last two years learning how to grow commercially a range of salt tolerant plants that are traditionally foraged.
Karkalla plants have dark green, small and slender leaves; when used in culinary applications, karkalla leaves and stems have a succulent, juicy and crunchy texture with a salty, briny flavour. This is a food of the local area. Pocket Herbs and Currie Country want to encourage people to familiarise themselves with food from this country, and celebrate it! Aboriginal people would consume the leaves, fruit, and flowers, both raw and slightly cooked. The leaves were predominantly served with meat, and the flower eaten fresh or dried. Now this traditional food can be shared easily.
The Currie family are a large traditional owner family who call the area bounded by the Logan River (QLD) to the north, the Brunswick River (NSW) in the south and west to the Albert River (QLD) ‘Currie Country’. Their partnership with Pocket Herbs & Produce aims to ‘inspire creation when using native foods and build knowledge around traditional food systems, local history, land lore, preparation techniques and pairing, and [to] encourage the use of sustainably grown produce’. Currie Country also provide a number of cultural experiences such as wellness retreats and foraging and farm tours, and can even supply emu eggs (see www.curriecountry.com).
Pocket Herbs & Produce were founded in 2008 and distribute their produce nationwide, including microgreens and other produce to wholesalers in the main capital markets, local retailers and Coles in NSW and QLD. They are ‘a large employer in the Southern Tweed Shire, employing over 30 people,’ they say, and also eco-conscious: ‘Our farm is environmentally friendly using organic registered product on our crops, 42kW of solar PV (energy neutral on a sunny day); solar hot water, composting toilets, and the capture and efficient re-use of rainwater. We are probably the greenest intensive horticulture business within the area.’
If you head to www.pocketherbs.com.au you can see the list of distributors of the award-winning Native Foods with Currie Country range and, for the month of June, if you head into Karkalla Restaurant (10/8 Fletcher St Byron Bay) and mention ‘Pocket Herbs’ you will receive a complimentary native cocktail when ordering food.
More info: www.pocketherbs.com.au.