Produce report: May 8
In 2003, When a bomb destroyed a residential complex and part of the adjacent school their three children attended in Saudi Arabia, expat Kiwis Dean and Sheree MacFarlane fled home to Gisborne, bringing their passion for pomegranates with them.
The family moved on to 1¾ acres in Te Karaka, 30km north of the city, a great relief after their Middle Eastern life behind high compound walls. The vegetarians then set about transforming what was once a pig farm into an orchard. Eight years ago they planted 375 pomegranate and 50-60 other fruiting trees, partly for their own eating pleasure and partly for what they hope will be a nice little earner in their retirement.
“We knew it would never be sustainable as a fulltime thing,” Dean, pictured below, says. Now, despite admitting to being tempted to take a chainsaw to the spiky trees on a good few occasions, the pair are selling New Zealand’s only commercially grown pomegranates. Most Kiwis will have eaten only imported ones (from India or the US). For Aucklanders, the local MacFarlane fruit is now in store at Farro. More is on its way to Wellington.
Normally a two-person operation for Dean and Sheree, torrential rain a fortnight ago meant hiring reinforcements, calling in a pack house and frantically picking fruit for the capital too. They are expecting a five tonne harvest this year, with a few tonnes still to pick.
Pomegranates do not like rain — they are likely to burst but generally they will sit on the tree for weeks without harm. They sweeten on storage, which is why the imported ones, spending weeks in a chiller and in transit, will be ripe when they arrive in store. If you purchase (or pick) any that are not as sweet as you’d like Dean advises popping the fruit into the fridge and leaving them for a month or more. It doesn’t matter if you have cut through the skin first. Very long keepers, they can also be stored at room temperature. The skin may shrivel but the arils will be fine.
Find pomegranate recipes here and put those local ones to good use. Dean prefers his straight from the tree. He scoops out the arils from burst fruit, fills his mouth and spits out the seeds.