Loving the ‘rejects’

lancepowellfarmAustralia’s best tasting bananas are grown right here on the North Coast, but you’re unlikely to find them on the big supermarket’s shelves.

Third generation Burringbar banana grower Lance Powell says despite their beautiful flavour, local bananas don’t have ‘the look’ supermarkets insist on, and are rejected in favour of the bigger, better looking bananas grown further north.

“They demand a really big banana with no skin blemish. Everything’s got be squeaky clean,” Lance said.

Producing such fruit almost impossible in our climate however – the cold winter slows the bananas down and gives them a duller appearance than those grown in places like North Queensland, and without the heavy use of chemicals, skin will almost always be slightly blemished.

Ironically though, it is these locally grown ‘rejects’ that taste the best, according to Lance: “They don’t have the appearance, but you have that beautiful intensity of flavour,” he said.

“The smaller cavs (cavendish) are almost like lollies, they’re so sweet.”

Like so many other local banana growers, the big market’s impossible ideals and pitiful prices almost forced Lance to walk away from the farm, but in the early 2000’s, the newly established local farmers markets threw him a lifeline.

He converted to organics – “ I can’t handle the idea of even minute traces of that stuff in people’s food,” he says –  and started selling direct to the public.

Without the middleman, Lance has finally been able to get a decent price for his produce, including his small and slightly blemished – but still great tasting- fruit, and make a living from the farm again.

“When you come face to face with your customers, you realise it’s the supermarkets that want the big, perfect bananas, not the customers,” Lance said.

“People are conditioned – when they go to the supermarket and everything’s perfect, they become conditioned to expect that…but it’s not like that in the natural world. “

Lance says people who visit farmers markets regularly soon come to realise that appearance doesn’t always equal flavour.

“I get that feedback from people all the time. They buy these massive big bananas at the supermarket and half of the time they’re chalky and there’s no taste, he said.

lanceweb“In my book, you buy fruit for flavour.”

– Find Mt Chowan Organics at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market every Friday. Lance also sells organic paw paw and other organic fruit and veg in season.

• Story and pic by Kate O’Neill

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