Crowning the persimmon
An autumnal evening beneath heavily-laden persimmon trees in a Karragullen orchard was the romantic idea dreamt up by the Perth Hills Future committee and the Hills Orchard Improvement Group – to not only celebrate the season of this little-known fruit, but also consolidate their shared vision for the future of the prolifically productive region.
Parking amongst the magnificent rows, guests of the Inaugural Perth Hills Persimmon Banquet were invited to step, boots and all, into the unique microclimate of the Canning Orchard. A winding journey via the muddy entry track led to the kind of breathtaking vista local orchardists no doubt take for-granted. But set with twinkling lights, a roaring bonfire and a marvellous marquee, last Saturday 6 May it was the scene for a most memorable night or food and networking.
I admit to not being quite sure about the persimmon. Is it a tomato? Is a nectarine? Do you bite into it like an apple? Suffice to say, while certainly not claiming the expert status the Edith Cowan University research fellows seated next to me quite viably hold (three years and counting devoted to the fruit), I’m now well versed in the eating possibilities of the crisp and firm Fuyu and the squishy sweet flavour of the Hachiya.
Vincenzo Velletri, Slow Food Leader and chef of the evening, explored the possibilities quite thoroughly – his roaring wood-fired oven divulging delicious delights throughout the evening. A bruschetta starter in all shades of orange highlighted the crunchy tartness of the Chinese cultivar - with fruit sourced from Spring Hill Orchard. A savory sauce peppered with paprika was a welcome accompaniment to the pork and a sweet cinnamon infused puree, using cooked fruit from Karragullen Fruit Company, was the pièce de résistance for the pillowy panna cotta dessert.
It wasn’t just the persimmon on display though, with the produce from many Western Australian producers well represented. Huge (putting my own yabbie dam to shame), gently-roasted marron from Dwellingup made a decadent entrée on a bed of lemony risotto, and the cheese boards, which captured guests slowly rising from the table after the three course meal, delivered a range of artisan cheeses; from Cambray Cheese in Nannup, Kytren Goat Cheese in Gidgeganup and Local Goat in Gingin. A fig and sandalwood-nut encrusted bread, handcrafted with Willgrow flour and a surprise delivery of freshly roasted Karragullen chestnuts teamed with the tantalising local port ensured animated discussions continued long after the tables were cleared.
The delicious banquet, and the well-chosen wines were a wonderful lubricant for discussion, and by the main meal, lively discourse on food security, agritourism possibilities and export issues was well underway. Mingling with the Perth Hills advocates, growers and city-dwelling visitors, the Minister for Food and Agriculture, MLC Jackie Jarvis and Hon Andrew Hastie, Member for Canning, made their commitments to preserving the heritage and cultivating the future of the Perth Hills reassuringly clear.
In the current food climate of high imports and supermarket driven, high volume food production, the evening was a tasty reminder to look more closely at the special offerings of our peri-urban regions. If this is a taste of the Perth Hills future, then I’m looking forward to finding out what’s next on the menu!
Dwellingup Marron on Lemon risotto
Cooking the Risotto