Tasmania has attained a very high reputation for the quality of its fresh produce. Known for decades as “the Apple Isle” is an indication that it produces fruit for the world.
But today Tasmania is home to not only large exporters of fine foods but an enormous number of small “cottage” food producers who are ranked amongst the worlds finest. However these small-scale, boutique-style farmers now produce a lot more than fruit. Fresh ingredients from Tasmania are eagerly sought interstate and internationally. Restaurants everywhere boast Tasmanian produce. Tasmanians have almost forgotten the traditional British meat-and-two-veg school of cooking and now embrace modern Australian cuisine. The change, to what is now a strong food and wine culture with an emphasis on a wide variety of simply-prepared, fresh ingredients, has mainly come about through migrants from mainland Australia and overseas. The past few decades have brought immigrants from Italy, Greece, Hungary and many other European countries and more recently our cuisine has been expanded to embrace the South East Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam and even African foods are now gracing our tables. These immigrants have introduced to our food culture a huge variety of produce which has been embraced to a degree that Tasmania is now culturally diverse and able to compete with the world with all its variety of cuisines.
The many Mediterranean immigrants that settled in Tasmania decades ago brought with them a love for Olive oil. Now there are some major movers in the market and many small boutique producers of extra virgin olive oil in Tasmania. Although the cool climate leads to lower yields for growers it results in a product that is more nutritious and with a stronger flavour. Tasmanian extra virgin olive oil has a free fatty acid level – indicating minimal oxidation – which is four times better than the standard set by the International Olive Oil Council.
Tasmania has a cool climate compared to most areas of mainland Australia. This cool climate gives a longer growing season which produces a superior quality olive and, thus, a superior quality extra virgin olive oil.
There are many different kinds of olive varieties from which oil can be produced, and each brings a unique flavor and quality to the oil. While some olive oil is made by blending different olive varieties together, mono-varietals or monocultivar olive oils, are made using just one. It is the variety of olive, along with the maturity of the fruit, that contributes most to the flavor of the oil.
Olive oils described as ‘virgin’ are those that have been obtained from the original fruit without having been synthetically treated. Once the olives have been picked, pressed, and washed, no other process has taken place other than decantation, and centrifugation to extract the oil, and filtration. The best quality of olive oil available is described as ‘extra virgin’.
The aromas of olive oil are a critical part of its flavor. Pour a little bit of extra virgin olive oil into a small glass. Hold it, swirl it, warm it for a minute or two. Then put your nose in the glass and take in the aroma or “nose” of the olive oil. You may notice the smell of fresh-cut grass, cinnamon, tropical fruits or other aromas of ripe or green olive fruit. With Tasmanian olive oil you will simply think Tasmania!
One burgeoning industry is the Salmon industry. Few of the world’s coastal waters are pollution-free anymore but by it’s isolation Tasmania can boast that it is. Tasmania therefore has a competitive edge in aquaculture, with one of the most pristine environments in the world and perfect for growing top quality salmon which thrives in it’s cooler waters. Tasmanian-grown Atlantic Salmon is the first choice for many chefs because of its flavour and texture.
Small though it may be Tasmania is the world’s largest supplier of wild abalone. The shellfish flourish on Tasmania’s wild and tempestuous coastline, in one of the world’s last remaining unspoilt marine environments. Abalone is a large marine gastropod mollusk (that’s a sea snail to you and me) with extremely rich, flavorful meat that is highly prized. So highly prized, in fact, that they were nearly brought to the brink of extinction on the West Coast. Careful management has brought population levels back a bit and some recreational harvesting is allowed. For those of us not brave enough or geographically situated to dive for abalone, farmed abalone is an ideal way to obtain it. Its succulent, meaty texture and delicate flavour mean Tasmanian Wild Abalone is recognised globally as the best on the market.
Tasmania is well known for high-quality beef, based on a natural grass-fed production system (as opposed to grain-fed) and free from hormones, antibiotics and chemical contaminants. This is controlled by strict legislation. In fact, Tasmania is the only Australian state which bans the use of hormone growth promotants and antibiotics in the cattle industry. Many other game meats such as quail, possum, wallaby and farmed venison are also available in Tasmania.
Tasmania accounts for around 10 percent of all Australian dairy products. There are more than 700 farms in Tasmania and one cow for every three people on the island. About 90 percent of the milk production is exported.
The most well-known of Tasmania’s cheese producers would possibly be King Island Dairy, whose superb brie and thick, rich cream is sold all over Australia. Other Tasmanian cheese producers specialise in varieties including cheddar, organic cheeses from both sheep and cows milk, goat cheese and many specialty cheeses and many small producers are now bringing us superb cheeses that have no problem standing tall amongst the worlds best.
European bees were first successfully introduced into Tasmania in 1831 and the first Italian bees were introduced in 1884. The industry produces honey, beeswax and provides pollination services to the seed and fruit growing industries. Tasmanian honey is primarily sourced from single floral varieties. When bees visit flowers to gather nectar, the honey they produce has a unique taste, aroma and colour from that particular flower. In the valleys of western Tasmania the rainforests enjoy rainfall measured not in inches but in metres per annum. It is here that the Leatherwood trees flower in late summer and here that beekeepers collect the all-natural Leatherwood honey. Tasmania is the only place in the world which produces the unique leatherwood honey. Approximately two-thirds of Tasmania’s honey production is from leatherwood blossom. The musky rich taste of honey from Leatherwood blossoms is distinctly Tasmanian. Leatherwood honey is thick, creamy and amber-yellow in colour – not as sickly sweet to taste as other varieties of honey, but with a unique flavour and aroma. Other well known varieties of Tasmanian honey are Manuka, Clover, stringy bark, blackberry and prickly box all of which produce a honey of exquisite flavour.