Fabrice Rolando is a market vegetable grower at the western base of the Blue Mountains (just near Hartley NSW). I would say I've driven past his turn-off thousands of times in my life but never had an inkling of what was down there. Tim and I were even married in Hartley - just think, I could have had a bouquet of baby veg instead of flowers!
Fabrice grows open-pollinated, organic vegetables, herbs, berries and fruits to order. The farm is below Mount Piddington, in Little Hartley and covers 40-acres with about 2.2kms of prepared and mounded garden beds currently on the grow. South African-born, (with much of his childhood spent in Mauritius) he's also a landscape gardener (the business is called Blue Mountains Horticulture) and happily married father of three.
Under the banner of First Farm Organics, Fabrice grows everything from white Japanese turnips (above) to garlic, salt bush, purple curly kale, lamb's sorrel, French sorrel, red veined sorrel leaves (below), bronze fennel leaf, salsify, purple, green and white asparagus, baby and small cartots (white, yellow, orange and purple), society garlic flowers (the pink ones are a couple of pictures down) and loads more. This garden is incredible.
And if you think that's cool (but isn't it!) - Fabrice is now offering something extra. "I want my customers to receive the most nutrient dense produce possible so am doing 'live' salad and herb pots to order." Fabrice will plant a big terracotta pot of mixed salad greens, micro herbs or whatever the chef/cafe/customers wants then deliver and maintain them too.
So if you want a living, beautiful pot of mizuna, Japanese mustard leaf, oak leaf, perilla leaf and baby lettuce leaf to snip from when needed, just call Fabrice (0414 475 834). Or perhaps a big pot of corn salad (mache), which has the most wonderful sweet and nutty flavour. Or maybe a pot of lemon balm would be more your style? Or lambs sorrel? "When I deliver the pots I train my customers in how to snip the leaves from the outside in so they grow back nicely."
What a great idea for a present, hey?
Growing up in Mauritius with both parents keen cooks, Fabrice has inherited a love of great food, particularly French cuisine. And of course, he is constantly inspired by the produce in his own backyard, "every night we wander down to the garden and pick our dinner."
Last week when I visited, Fabrice picked a big bunch of French Breakfast radish and sent me home with instructions to eat them with good butter, white bread and a glass or two of French Champagne. So I did (except the French champagne bit - we had sparkling from Orange instead).
He also gifted me with a handful of the very last Alpine strawberries of the season (above). These are pretty much all grown for a three-hatted restaurant in Sydney, the white ones are a particularly gorgeous flavour bomb. Like the most intensely flavoured sweet you can imagine. Times 10.
So on leaving First Farm Organics with a basket full of the most precious, just picked vegetables I'd ever taken posession of - I figured less would be much more in terms of preparation. That night, we (the students I was cooking for at Mum's art classes) and I shared a platter of washed and lightly trimmed radishes, turnips, carrots and spring onions with some fruity olive oil and a little hazlenut dukkah. It was the perfect starter and everyone was just blown away by the flavour and freshness on that plate.
First Farm Organics vegetables, fruits, herbs, berries and flowers supplies a number of restaurants in the Blue Mountains of NSW (including the award-winning Darleys' - where our venison is also on the menu and often alongside Fabrice's veggies!), can be found at some farmers markets and ordered direct too. Work is also underway on an outdoor kitchen just next to the garden and the Rolando's will be launching cooking classes and garden tours later in the year - whoot whoo.
To contact the farm, call Fabrice on 0414 475 834 or email fabsue(at)bigpond.com