9 Nov 2018

Scarborough Fare: the delicate business of fine herbs

From Country Life, 9:17 pm on 9 November 2018

"Dill is always looking for a way to die", says Waiuku herb grower Pam Maurice. She's a former sheep and beef farmer who now co-owns the culinary herb business Scarborough Fare with former flower grower Jeanette Rea.

Scarborough Fare grows about 70 tonnes of fragrant herbs a year – mostly hydroponically – which are sold wholesale and eventually end up in cafes and restaurants all around the country.

Jeanette Rea and Pam Maurice

Jeanette Rea and Pam Maurice Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Mint is one of their biggest sellers and their most lucrative herb value-wise, followed by basil, thyme and chives.

Italian parsley is their biggest seller in terms of volume.

They also grow lemongrass, Vietnamese mint, and Thai basil, but not coriander, which is more a "market garden" herb.

"The dill is our tricky thing, Pam says.

"It's always looking for a way to die. It doesn't like the winter, the wet, the moisture, condensation, and it doesn't like the heat of summer.

"Everybody complains about dill, it's just tricky."

To reduce waste on their three-hectare workplace, Scarborough Fare works with the principles of Kaizen – the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement and waste elimination.

All of their employees now go out "mura-hunting" (hunting for wasteful work practices) Jeanette says.

"We've got eveybody totally conscious every day looking for better ways of doing the same thing."