Rob and Narelle Andrews at their Burringbar farm. PHOTO: KATE O'NEILL
Rob and Narelle Andrews at their Burringbar farm. PHOTO: KATE O'NEILL

Water-wise way to grow gourmet greens

ALWAYS piled high with lush-looking fresh and healthy leafy greens, The Gourmet Salad Hut is one of the most popular stalls at the local farmers' markets.

Rob and Narelle Andrews, who have been farming at Burringbar for more than 25 years, grow an impressive range of greens including fancy lettuce, mizuna, herbs such as parsley, dill coriander, basil and mint, spinach and kale, Asian greens, and hard-to-find but highly nutritious salad greens like beetroot leaves, and watercress.

All of their greens are grown using hydroponics - a soil-free system in which the plants are grown off the ground, using pipes to deliver the plants the water and nutrients they need.

Rob says hydroponics has a number of advantages. For example, it uses less water, and it also reduces the need for pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals as the plants are grown up off the ground, away from weeds, pests and soil borne diseases. The system also ensures the plants get exactly what they need in the way of nutrients and water, which explains why they always look so healthy.

"The plants get a bit spoiled because most of the time the water is flowing underneath and they've got all the nutrients they need,” Rob says.

Alongside the leafy greens, The Gourmet Salad Hut is also known for Narelle's delicious home-made pestos, pickles, relishes, jams and butters, which are made to her mum's traditional country recipes.

Narelle says she started making the preserves to stop the excess greens and any other produce on the farm going to waste, but they have become so popular that she now grows some ingredients especially for them.

Included in Narelle's ever-growing seasonal range is a dairy-free pesto with basil, coriander, watercress, rocket and cashews, as well as a sweet chilli relish, guava jam, passionfruit skin jam, lime ginger choko jam, mulberry jam, orange marmalade, cumquat marmalade, lime marmalade, four-fruit marmalade, sweet chilli coriander mint relish, fig jam and choko pickle.

Find The Gourmet Salad Hut at the New Brighton Farmers' Market every Tuesday and the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market every Friday.