Local Farmers : Sally Hookey, Hinterland Feijoas

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 Sally Hookey and a young feijoa

This my first installment of a series of posts about local farmers who will share a few tips, tricks and let us know where to find their quality produce or products. I could not of wished for such a welcoming person for the first farmer to feature on our site. Sally Hookey invited me to her hinterland farm to take a look at her trees and talk about the process of becoming a sustainable organic feijoa farmer.

Sally Hookey and Peter Heineger run a certified organic farm called Hinterland Feijo’s. Nestled between Kenilworth and Eumundi they have a small acreage with an orchard of 1000 trees on their property.  Feijoas (Feijoa sellowiana O) originated from southern Brazil, northern Argentina, western Paraguay and Uruguay where they are common in the mountains. They are also commonly called feijoa, pineapple guava or guavasteen.  They can grow up to 7 meters, Sally tells me that in New Zealand they use them as hedges. The leaves are thick with a silvery underside, similar to an olive and the fruit grows at the tips of the plant.

Sally and Peter moved to the Sunshine Coast hinterland in 2006 and then in 2008 established Hinterland Feijoas. They are the only commercial organic feijoa growers in Australia. Over the years they have expanded the orchard and added different varieties. Each year learning more and more about growing these unique fruit.

In 2012 they were awarded Small Business of the Year in the Sunshine Coast Excellence in Business Awards, chosen from 160 finalists. They are the first farmers to win this award.

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 Young white goose feijoa fruit

Walking through the rows of Feijoa’s Sally shared with me the varieties she uses and tells me about her daily routine to keep them maintained. Currently fruit fly is a real problem on the Sunshine Coast and Sally nets her crops in November to prevent them from spoiling the fruit. The nets do come down after fruiting has finished, this then allows the pollination to happen in spring. Sally tells me that majority of the pollination is now done by honey eaters in the area and only a few bees.

Each morning the plants are watered, with the lack of rainfall over the Sunshine Coast many farmers are using their reserves of water. Sally and Peter have two damns on their property which goes on to their trees and garden. This year they are growing millet as a mulch crop for the trees. Over the past years they have rotated other mulch crops to maximize the benefits from the soil. Being a sustainable is really important for Sally and Peter, they grow their own mulch, make compost/fertilizer from the chooks and horses and have water from the dam.

Along with watering each day, one row of feijoas are mowed. With the netting over the trees Sally and Peter whipper-snip around the base of the trees under the netting. Though when the netting is not over the Feijoas Sally’s let her horse Midnight into the paddock. This week Sally is getting two mini ponies to be permanent grazers in the feijoa paddock with the grooviest names Twinkle Toes and Smokey The Bandit. They will eat the grass between the rows while the netting is up.

Walking around the plants daily Sally checks for any change in the foliage of the feijoas. Maintaining any suckers that have come up from the base of the tree which are pruned to prevent the base of the trunk rotting. Majority of the pruning is done once a year. Sally does not let anything go to waste and some of the pruned leaves are sent to florists for flower arrangements. Sally has a unique way to test her plants needs to produce a better crop. Each year a leaf test is conducted just before the trees start flowering. What ever mineral is required it is sourced organically and then applied to the crop. Over the past five years both Sally and Peter are getting better at detecting deficiencies in the plants just by looking at them now. Once you start gardening I believe you learn a lot from your plants.

Varieties:

White Goose: Large fruit with thin rough skin, early fruiting, consistent fruiting, pulp is sweet and tasty.

Apollo: Large fruit with a rough skin, very juicy and sweet, pollinated by larger birds.

Triumph: Plump oval fruit, sharp flavour, not many seeds.

Unique: Early fruiting, susceptible to fruit fly, thin skin, smooth flesh and little sweet fruit.

Mammoth: Common variety, irregular fruit from large round to oval fruit and good pollinator. Popular as root-stock.

Nazematze: Round fruit with bubbly skin, very sweet and a high quality

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 Midnight grazing

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 Feijoa trees and Sally with the young feijoa fruit.

Working closely with local chefs in the area Sally and Peter have made a great range of products from preserves to vinegars.  Peter Wolfe from Cedar Creek Farm Bush Foods is one of the main chefs who crafts these products. Another is the Italian Chef Claudio Guiletti of Gelato Mio in Coolum who makes a range of feijoa Gelato. All the products are gluten-free and have no preservatives.

Products Available:

Jams available are:  Feijoa, Feijoa & Ginger Jam (a chunky style), Boysenberry & Feijoa Jelly and a chunky Feijoa & Rosealla Jam. Feijoa chutney which is cured.

Preserved Feijoas: whole fruit with skin on or off.

Vinegar & Glaze:  Feijoa White Balsamic Glaze and Feijoa Balsamic Dressing

Sally tells me that feijoa and pork are a great combination and the white glaze is perfect for roasting a pork belly in. They can be used to make sweet or savoury dishes from cakes to accompany a cheese platter to a roast pork loin. Feijoa’s have the texture of a quince and have the tang of pineapple.

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  Top left to right: Rhubarb plant, morning tea with feijoa tarts and Feijoa & Rosella Jam

Fresh Feijoas are available from March to April and Sally will be at the Eumundi Markets on Saturdays from late February. It is best to order them directly from the farm where you can pick them up or get them sent in the post. During March and April you can visit the farm and take a tour of the property and enjoy a muffin over a cup of tea. For more information please contact Sally directly. Alternatively the Natural Food Store and Jeffers on the Sunshine Coast have fresh feijoas while the preserves and vinegar’s are stocked in many stores across south-east Queensland to view the full list Click Here.

HINTERLAND FEIJOAS
Peter Heineger & Sally Hookey
(07) 5447 0532
info@hinterlandfeijoas.com.au
www.hinterlandfeijoas.com.au

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Preserved Feijoas with skin on, Feijoa White Balsamic Glaze and Feijoa Balsamic Dressing.

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5 Comments

  1. Love hearing about local producers and how they do it. These feijoa products look fantastic, the feijoa balsamic dressing sounds really good.

  2. I had no idea there were so many varieties of Feijoas. this is a really interesting and well researched post. Amazing what is growing in Queensland isn’t it?

  3. Interesting fruit, never seen them here in the states. I bet that jam is delicious.
    -Gina-

  4. Really interesting! I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten feijoas. You can sometimes find them here in the US (they’re usually called pineapple guava), but they’re not common. I’m going to have to start looking for them! Really interesting post – thanks.

  5. Love the new series on local farmers – great idea!! Well researched and interesting piece. I don’t know if I’ve even eaten one 😉 I’ll check out their site on where to buy.