It’s not a law firm, but you could be easily mistaken. Basil, Parsley and Partners Ltd, tucked away on three hectares of thriving Central Otago soil near Cromwell, supplies nearly 40 different varieties of herbs all over the southern South Island.
Former Queenstown barman and Englishman, Bob Tovey has been supplying restaurants and food businesses with fresh culinary herbs for 25 years, after spotting a gap in the market.
“I came to Queenstown on my OE and I was working at the former Lakeland Hotel as a barman, and as a gondola operator for Skyline,” says Bob. “I was always asking the chefs what foods they couldn’t get and they all said fresh herbs, so I started looking for land.”
He started small with just tomatoes and gradually began growing herbs.
Before long Bob was supplying Queenstown restaurants, the Queenstown Wholesale Market, Bidvest and local supermarkets.
More than 20 years on, he’s seen some remarkable trends with various herbs coming in and out of vogue.
“Our biggest mover at the moment would be coriander. Everyone’s taken a real liking to it. Basil used to be our biggest seller until 10 years ago. In the good old days Italian parsley was fashionable, then Basil became the new exotic herb and now its coriander,” says Bob. “I think that’s because there are so many celebrity chefs and TV cooking shows out there at the moment all using a lot of coriander or cilantro as it is also known as.”
Oddly enough, Bob’s also seen a resurgence in normal, curly parsley use. “It seems some of the younger chefs, who are new to their careers, haven’t used it much, so it’s back as quite a highlight.”
Herb flowers were it back in the 1990’s, and faded from popularity, but they’re back with a vengeance now. Presentation is paramount and the herb flowers are widely used as a garnish and to dress cakes and slices up in display cabinets. Everything from nasturtiums, with their peppery bite, to chive flowers and viola are highly sought after by clients.
Microherbs have taken off during the past five years. Bob is forever experimenting for local chefs with new trials. This year’s project is growing an Asian herb, Shiso, but he’s also growing Purslane, a popular American salad herb very high in Omega 3, and Strawberry Spinach. “It’s got tiny strawberries like berries along the stem and the leaves look like holly, so I’m picking that will be a great Christmas garnish.”
Basil, Parsley and Partners Ltd products are in demand throughout Otago and Central Otago, but Bob has no plans to go corporate with the firm. “I supply local and that’s always been my goal. I like being able to talk directly with the people I’m growing for. The chefs come here and I work with them on their menus.”
(Basil Parsley and Partners. Ph: 03 4450732 – www.herbsrus.co.nz)