I’ve got to the jaded, cynical point in my life where I’d like to think that not much can surprise me – this is despite the fact I’m constantly being surprised. Obtuse of me, I know.
One of the more recent surprises in my life was my discovery of the Southern Flinders Ranges. It had been filed away in my head as simply an extension of the beautiful but dry Flinders Ranges, with food production limited to native, arid-growing bush foods. I now stand corrected.
The region extends south to Spalding and Yacka, north as far as towns such as Orroroo and Carrieton, west to Port Pirie and Port Germein, and as far east as the steam town destination of Peterborough – and it is only a two-hour drive from Adelaide.
On my drive into the Southern Flinders at the end of a very dry spring, my first surprise was to see a lush, fertile region. Parts of the area enjoy up to 650mm annual rainfall and stonefruit has been grown up here for more than a century.
The second surprise was finding a growing and very engaged food and wine culture with an active local food group and a regular range of local producers’ markets.
And there is no shortage of extraordinarily committed and passionate food and wine producers in the region. People such as the warm and friendly David and Jackie O’Reilly, whose organic O’Reilly’s Orchard and garden produces a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables which they market throughout the local community, delivering directly to clients’ homes on a weekly basis from November to May. They also produce a range of sulphur-free dried fruit products which are available all year round at the farm gate and online.
David and Jackie host farm walks around their glorious property and – best of all – a shared table experience in their home. The Bloke and I enjoyed a wonderful evening of excellent food, stimulating conversation and great company around their comfortable table, coming away feeling as if we had made new friends.
The O’Reillys will open their home for individual or group bookings, offering home-grown and home-cooked meals, freshly prepared based upon what is best on the day. I can think of no better way to get an authentic feeling for the region, the people and the food in a warm and informal setting, and will value the memories made on that evening.
Another surprise the region offered up is its vineyards and wineries.
I visited David and Margo Blesing at Blesing’s Garden Wines, where they produce award-winning Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon, Nebbiolo, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Their delightful cellar door offers visitors the opportunity to sit back and enjoy spectacular views from the verandah while tasting their wines or enjoying a Devonshire tea – often with David tickling the ivories of the baby grand piano inside.
While there, I got to enjoy some of the products from another local producer, Orroroo Kangaroo. Owned by Taryn Ackland, Orroroo Kangaroo produces a kangaroo-meat range which includes pastrami, mettwurst, pepperoni, schnitzels, sausages, burgers, stir-fry, kransky, fritz, kabanos and jerky, as well as other cuts.
In order to use all of each beast, Taryn has extended her product range to include a selection of sophisticated leather goods, proving that kangaroo leather is as durable as cow leather, but softer and much more supple.
Keen foodies looking for somewhere to lay their heads will be thrilled to know they can do just that right in the heart of this productive food bowl. Beetaloo Grove, in Beetaloo Valley, offers charming, rustic cottage accommodation right in the midst of more than 80ha of Heritage-listed scrub land teeming with local flora and fauna. A further 1.2ha are planted in olives and fruit trees which produce a range of premium olive oils and olive products.
Alternatively, check out Taralee Orchards, opposite the old Wirrabara Forrest nursery. Paul and Denise Kretschmer have a certified biodynamic stonefruit orchard and have been using biodynamic practices since purchasing the 46ha property in early 1998.
They also offer two separate, fully equipped, self-contained cottages, picturesquely nestled amid the gardens and trees. These can be rented either with or without breakfast provisions. Both cottages offer wide views, campfire facilities and the option to purchase packages of Taralee biodynamic beef and lamb.
The catchphrase on the official Southern Flinders website is “Naturally Unexpected” and that just about sized it up for me as I chalk yet another delightfully delicious surprise down to experience.
South Australian writer Amanda McInerney writes about travel and food on her Lambs’ Ears & Honey blog. She visited the Southern Flinders Ranges as a guest of Regional Development Australia, Yorke and Mid North Region.
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