Christchurch food tours go 'off the eaten track'
Jenny Garing is introducing locals and international visitors to some of Christchurch's hidden culinary treasures through her "off the eaten track" Ground Food Tours.
Her aim is to help locals become confident using more new ingredients and to allow overseas visitors to experience New Zealand through food.
"It's about introducing people to other food cultures whether it's tourists learning about New Zealand food culture, or New Zealanders learning about international food cultures."
Garing has produced spice mixes under the Ground label for many years but lost her well known Lyttelton cafe and deli in the 2011 earthquake.
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She began running cooking classes at the Naval Point Yacht Club and recently teamed up with fellow Lyttelton local Laura Sessions, who has a tourism background, to run the food tours.
Although she had considered opening another cafe, Garing said the lingering impact of neck and shoulder injuries from the earthquake precluded that.
The tours had the advantage of not needing permanent premises with all the insurance and overheads that entailed. "We have a van and staff."
The two Global Shopper tours – Asian and Mediterranean/Middle Eastern – visit four food warehouses for on-the-spot lessons about exotic ingredients.
China Town Market at Church Corner is on Garing's itinerary and she says it has fresh Chinese vegetables and herbs not available anywhere else in Christchurch.
"People are blown away. They're very nervous when we walk in, it's just too much, it's just like being in Asia.
"There was a woman who said 'I've been to two of these shops before, but I walked out because I didn't know what I was looking at'."
After purchasing ingredients, Garing takes the group back to the yacht club to prepare lunch for them.
A trip with an expert forager sees participants try pickled seaweed or soup made from nettles, chickweed and fat hen. "We pick a lot of weeds."
Tours to Canterbury food producers take in a goat farm, a chorizo maker, and there's a stop at the Kakano Cafe and Cookery school to sample manuka smoked eggs, titi (mutton bird) and kumara stacks.
"The Americans and Canadians love the kumara stack – they know sweet potato as a dessert not a savoury food."
Garing said overseas clients enjoyed the opportunity to meet Kiwis.
"They're not just sampling food, they're hearing about the history of them setting up their business and the culture behind it."