Have you ever had a feeling of overwhelming excitement when looking at a zucchini? Have you ever held a squash in your hand and smiled in pure joy? Have you ever seen a pumpkin so beautiful it made you want to take a photo of it and put it as a background image on your phone? Up till last Sunday, I hadn’t either.
Having just spent a long weekend in Port Stephens and on our way back to Sydney, Lainy’s inbuilt British radar detected Devonshire Tea along the route. Sure enough, right on the side of the highway, we both spotted a sign that said “Real Tomatoes”, and in smaller writing below that, “Devonshire Tea”.
Now I have to admit, I like Devonshire Tea, but it does not get me buzzing like the prospect of “Real Tomatoes” does. Once we were inside it became apparent that this place was unlike any other café/gourmet tomato store I had ever been to. Two nice ladies who were busy arranging produce stopped and greeted us with a smile. In the centre of the wide space, there sat a massive old wooden table, absolutely covered with enormous vegetables. The beautiful green zucchinis weighed two kilos at the least and would have measured around 40 cm in length. The squash was no baby either measuring around 20 cm in diameter. In its beautiful striking yellow, it sat next to two varieties of fantastic looking pumpkin that I had not seen before, and beside that were thousands of new potatoes covered with fresh earth. This was all a bit too much for me. I felt like a kid in a candy store, only it was a vegetable store. After a short chat to one of the two ladies, Jennifer, who turned out to be the owner of the place, we found out that all the vegetables sold in store were home grown. Jennifer is from the fifth generation who farmed the land we were on, and it is her son who now takes care of all the growing. Jennifer runs the shop and lives in the beautiful home at the back of the property. Her shop also sells some other local produce, including some excellent jam, beautiful free range eggs in hand painted cartons and her own homemade range of vegetable relish, tomato being the best seller. To me, the whole place felt like it was frozen in time, beautifully nestled in a moment where people bought their vegetables from those who grew them, and those who grew them picked them when they were at their best with no need to worry about transport or refrigeration or the middle man.
Lainy brought my focus back to the task on hand as she became feverish for a cup of tea. Unfortunately, only one scone was left – Jennifer apologised – she was so busy she hadn’t had the time to bake any more for the day. So Lainy and I ordered the home made coffee cake instead, and it was delicious.
Before we left, we stocked up on zucchinis, pumpkin, squash, capsicum, real tomatoes, green beans, white cucumber, free range eggs and Jennifer’s chilli tomato relish, all ready for a vegetarian feast once we got home.