Credit to district for royal lunch food choice

Kakanui grower Jim O'Gorman shows off some healthy food, after being selected to supply...
Kakanui grower Jim O'Gorman shows off some healthy food, after being selected to supply vegetables for a private meal for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
A Kakanui vegetable grower says being chosen to supply food for an upcoming royal visit was not just a recommendation for one man, but also overdue recognition for the whole Waitaki district.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expected to visit Australia and New Zealand in April.

Two weeks before Christmas Kakanui resident and vegetable grower Jim O'Gorman got the news that he would have to supply food for a private lunch for the Royal couple during their visit to Government House.

He said he would provide a range of tomatoes and new potatoes as well as fresh herbs.

It would be a light salad ''full of flavour'', he said.

''For me, it's an indication that the little guy can make it in the world, and it's something that could enhance the Waitaki district as a producer of top-class food.

''The thing about Kakanui is that the soil is famous for the flavour that it passes to things like tomatoes and potatoes, and that's what they're asking for this time around.

''The flavour of the Waitaki district is unique in itself; it's the soils that we have here with the high mineral base that imparts a unique flavour to our foods.

''The other thing is that I am into the heritage seed programme, so the intent is to retain the old varieties and keep the gene pool alive, and it appear that a lot of people really enjoy those flavours.''

Although it was anticipated that Prince George would accompany the Royal couple, that was still to be confirmed, but Mr O'Gorman said that if the baby prince did come he would love him to try a Yellow Yummy tomato.

Although it was coloured yellow, it had the sweet taste of a plum, he said.

Mr O'Gorman said he had been growing vegetables at Kakanui for about 20 years, after ending a career selling organic food at a Dunedin retail store.

He said a serious illness had then forced him to reassess what he should do with his life.

''That came up as wanting to do something positive for the planet, so basically doing something positive for agriculture and changing the way we think about producing food.''

With help from members of the Centre for Sustainabilty at the University of Otago, who had helped him establish a new approach to how soil could be used, he set about revamping an unused horticultural plot at Kakanui.

''We are very lucky to have a world-class university on our doorstep that we can use''It's basically taking a new approach to soil science; that soil is a biological organism that we can enhance. Healthy soil is as alive as you and I and is made up of exactly the same micro-organisms.''

Properly made compost was the secret to growing vegetables in the Waitaki, because it enabled ''beneficial fungi'' to work in the soil, he said.

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