Blackcurrants in the limelight

19:58, Feb 01 2010
readers gallery
James King, of Motueka, Amelia Bradley of Motueka, Leah Bailey of Mapua, and Bridget Phillips of Motueka enjoying the music at the Sarau Festival in Upper Moutere.
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Miles Drewery of Upper Moutere with the last of his venison and blackcurrant pie which won best innovative recipe and best product to promote blackcurrants.
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Matilda McIntyre, 4, of Upper Moutere makes a new friend, Bernie, at the Sarau Festival.
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Jackie and Michael MacMillian with some of the gifts the pair make from Neudorf wine barrels.
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Tony Jurgens and Jenny Meggs of Ruby Bay enjoying the food, drink and music.

Close to half of all blackcurrant growers in New Zealand ply their trade in the Moutere Valley, so it is appropriate the valley has its own festival for the small but nutritious fruit.

The third annual Sarau Festival was held at the Moutere Hills Community Centre yesterday, and an abundance of food, drink and music kept thousands of festival-goers in the right mood.

The festival – named after the original name of Upper Moutere – is the only one in New Zealand to pay homage to the blackcurrant and the importance it has to the region with plenty of fun and informative stalls.

A cooking demonstration by Tasman chef Steve Richards in the community centre was so popular many had to stand, while a history on the region by Mike Rodgers also proved popular, organiser Jenny Leith said.

"It's a good atmosphere and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, which is what it's all about."

The event was started after the community centre was built, said Mrs Leith, out of a desire to celebrate the centre and the region as a stronghold of the blackcurrant industry.

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"But really it's about getting people out here and showing them what a great valley it is to live in and how much it has going for it," she said. "There is a real movement of people growing their own vegetables and this is a way to show people that blackcurrants are a great fruit to grow and use."

Competitions were held for the jam, muffins and recipes using blackcurrants.

Upper Moutere chef Miles Drewery won the supreme award for best product to promote blackcurrants, along with the best innovative recipe award for his venison and blackcurrant pie. "I didn't expect to win, but I love cooking with blackcurrants and I made the recipe up myself, so it's really nice to win," said the cafe-owner. Susie Lees, of Upper Moutere, won the best jam award, while Betty Rae, of Nelson, won the muffins award.

"It's nice to see people enjoying our valley and seeing locals out here with an opportunity to sell their stuff, all the while celebrating the blackcurrant," Mrs Leith said. "We're really happy with how's it's gone."

The Nelson Mail