21 Dec 2023

Keeping berries fresh for the festive season

From Afternoons, 1:15 pm on 21 December 2023

A short soak in water and baking soda will help extend the life of fresh raspberries, says Waikato berry grower Jay Malloy.

After rinsing the berries, he recommends soaking them in a small amount of this mixture for a couple of minutes, straining them then storing them in a ziplock bag in the fridge.

fresh raspberries on a bench

Photo: Lisa Fotios

"There's a good chance that your berries are going to be in a lot better condition than if they were just put in on their own," Jay tells Jesse Mulligan.

Jay is the managing director of Kaipaki Berries, which produces strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

He says raspberries are so expensive this year because flooding in Hawke's Bay earlier this year destroyed so many plants.

"It wiped out a large majority of the tunnel raspberry supply in New Zealand, so what that means is there's just very little supply of raspberries at this time, probably about 70 percent back."

When it comes to strawberries, prices are high due to wild weather ruining a third of New Zealand's strawberry plants back in June.

He would like supermarkets to help the situation by "getting a bit tighter" on their profit margins for Kiwi's favourite summer berry.

"What customers are paying isn't exactly close to what we're getting in return from the supermarket."

When buying strawberries, Jay recommends being careful to choose "the good ones" from the shelf.

"I'd just be a bit careful with which ones you're picking up at the supermarket.'

child reaching for strawberries

Photo: Public domain

After growing up on a strawberry farm, Jay doesn't get excited about eating that particular berry.

"If I'm being honest with you, I kind of got over strawberries when I was about five. But if I do have to eat them, I love a Kaipaki strawberry on its own, doesn't need sugar or ice cream."

Although he studied marketing and business at university and "never thought he'd do berries", Jay ended up learning how to grow them in Australia at a farm run by the American berry mega-brand Driscoll's.

"There was a real opportunity for me when I was a young fella to learn the ropes on modern growing and modern berry farming... I definitely learned a lot in that period. Then I came back and me and my wife kind of jumped in and thought it's time to do it ourselves.

"At the end of the day, it's in your blood, you kind of find your way back to it."

Jay Molloy and Linda Chim of Kaipaki berries

Jay Molloy and Linda Chim of Kaipaki berries Photo: © MG Marketing

Situated on a "really good little spot" five minutes from Hamilton airport and 10 minutes from Cambridge, Kaipaki Berries is a "modern" berry farm, Jay says.

Protective cropping (greenhouse growing) alleviates environmental issues and boosts the crops' quality and shelf life. And with berry platforms elevated off the ground, picking the fruit is not the "backbreaking" work of decades past.

Kaipaki Berries employs around 100 pickers, which Jay says range in age from 18 to 80.

"It doesn't matter who you are, you've just really got to have a good work ethic and a good mindset… they're all brilliant people doing a really good job and that results in really good quality products."