22 Sep Introducing Our New Innovative Airgardens
The lush environment and characteristic red soil of the Tweed Shire is a strong foundation for growing a myriad of vegetables and fruits. Couple this with the flattering 200+ average hours of sunshine each month — regardless of what season you find yourself in — and well, you have the perfect opportune blank canvas to cultivate nearly anything you would like.
Head Chef Jason Barratt himself will admit he’s somewhat of a city slicker. Hailing from inner-city Melbourne, he is, however, no stranger to growing produce and getting soil under his fingernails. Whilst working previously at the highly renowned and awarded restaurant Attica, he had the chance to be involved most days at their Ripponlea Estate gardens nurturing a host of edible greenery which eventually winded into the very makeup of their menu.
Now, after spending over two years in the Northern Rivers region he sees growing produce through a slightly different lens. It’s hard not to when producers and farmers alike are littered around the area you live day to day. There’s an accepted normality in embracing the potential relationships restaurants can — and now do have with producers — as well as the very en vogue ‘paddock to plate’ movement which many discerning diners now crave and laud.
Our expectations of quality and locality have come a long way in recent years concerning food. And why shouldn’t it? Australia grows some great produce.
Yet, when the area you belong to has incredible fertility and climate — surely then it’s an obligation to showcase its abundance?
Jason and his team have three vegetable beds on a tucked away section of the hotel grounds, which are constantly tended to and used to grow seasonal vegetables. But even he will admit it cannot sustain the kitchen at Paper Daisy.
“It’s a great little plot for us to grow some amazing produce. I’ve experimented with all sorts of things, sometimes just planting them for fun. It’s great though because pretty much everything I plant just grows!” Says Jason.
To that end, Jason and his team became aware of a new innovative method by which they could grow a sizeable amount of produce, even with the limited space available. The acquisition of two innovative Australian made Airgarden towers has been quite the game changer muses Head Chef Barratt.
“Since we have implemented these two towers we can grow so much more. We are growing lettuce and herbs at a decent rate — whereby if we take some today, we then rotate through the spaces we take from. With this method, by the time we get to circle back round they have almost grown back again!”
The Airgarden is a vertical aeroponic material garden allowing the owner to grow 30 plants in less than one square metre of space. Not green-fingered? Not a problem: there’s no soil, no digging and certainly no weeding. Boasting 2x faster growing times and using 95% less water than conventional gardening — whether you have a small balcony or even acres of backyard; as long as you have sunshine or a source of light, you are equipped to become an urban gardener.
As the hotel slips into the bright and balmy days of Spring, the demand for this fresh produce in the Paper Daisy kitchen will naturally begin to rise. This doesn’t worry the team though, as they know a plentiful supply of quality produce is merely a phone call away. However, Jason looks to their novel Airgardens as a potential growing feature in their own right.
“They’ve been great so far. I think we may look at getting some more — so watch this space.”
Photography by Francesca Owen