This article was originally published in the Bayleys Marlborough Summer Preview Magazine.
Hedgerows Hydroponic Strawberries
Is there anything quite as joyous as a big, fat, juicy strawberry? Hannah Thomas, co-owner at Hedgerows Hydroponic Strawberries thinks not, she says, “Strawberries bring so much pleasure to people. They’re offered at all sorts of special occasions, to say thank you, as a get-well gift or to celebrate a family gathering.”
Hannah, her partner, Clayton, and his parents, Annette and Geoff, are currently entering their third season as owners at Hedgerows. They’ve been serving up their strawberries at the Marlborough Farmer’s Market and their Rene Street shop throughout this time, and this summer you may have noticed the Hedgerows bicycle cart in the centre of Blenheim each weekday. The business also supplies to other retail outlets, supermarkets and the hospitality trade throughout the South Island.
But there’s something special about Hedgerows strawberries. They’ve hit the sweet spot with their hydroponic growing system, which does away with the need for soil. Plants are sustained by vital nutrients and oxygen supplied to the water they’re grown in. This method is environmentally friendly, using eight to ten times less water than field-grown strawberries. It also results in sweeter tasting strawberries available much earlier in the year; a full month and a half before anywhere else in New Zealand.
Hedgerows environmental credentials are further enhanced by keeping the local bees in work. Hannah explains, “We are lucky to have bees available to us for fruit pollination. They are integral to our fruit’s beautiful shape and yield. The bees are bred specifically for pollination, and we give them the perfect working environment.”
But, it’s not just the bees that are welcome visitors at the strawberry farms. Customers are also encouraged to stay a while. It was always part of the plan to make Hedgerows a destination that families and friends could enjoy together. To that end, you can settle into a beanbag and relax in the shop’s garden area, sharing a punnet or two of strawberries, enjoying a real fruit ice-cream or feasting on the ultimate summer treat, a Hedgerows Strawberry Sundae. It’s all about providing the simple pleasures in life.
Although Hedgerows isn’t a dedicated PYO farm, come January, the business owners take the unusual step of welcoming visitors into the glasshouses. Hannah says, “We see it as an opportunity for the community to see a different way of growing food close up and enjoy the magical ambience.”
How to Enjoy Hedgerows Hydroponic Strawberries
Asked for some favourite ways to serve strawberries Hannah says, “I like mine just as they are, straight from the chiller after work. Clayton likes his dipped in chocolate, and Annette enjoys hers with Cranky Goat soft goat’s cheese.” Another suggestion, if you want to try something new, is to follow the example of some of Hannah’s Swedish family friends. “Simply chop the strawberries and pour milk over them like cereal. Add a sprinkle of sugar and dig in. The sweet strawberry milk when you’re finished is an extra treat!”
A perfect Marlborough summer day out, you can visit Hedgerows on the Old Renwick Road from Tuesday to Sunday throughout their strawberry season. Visit the website for opening times.