STONEFRUIT WA persimmonCrowning thePERSIMMONThe Perth Hill’s status as a West Australian fresh food mecca is truly sealed with this inaugral event.Words supplied by Perth Hills FutureMinister for Agriculture and food, the Hon, Jackie Jarvis, shares her vision for the Hills.Beautiful styling with the autumnal colours of the Hills.Dinner guests were treated to a menu by Vincenzo Velletri.AN autumnal evening on Saturday May 6 beneath heavily-laden persimmon trees in a Karragullen orchard was the romantic idea dreamt up by Perth Hills Future and the Hills Orchard Improvement Group committee. It was intended to not only celebrate the season of this little-known fruit, but also consolidate a shared vision for the future of the prolifically productive region.Parking among the magnificent rows, guests of the Inaugural Perth Hills Persimmon Banquet were invited to step, boots and all, into the unique microclimate of the Canning Orchard.I admit to not being quite sure about the persimmon. Is it a tomato? Is it a nectarine? Do you bite into it like an apple? Suffice to say, while certainly not claiming the expert status the Curtin research fellows seated next to me quite viably hold (three years and counting devoted to the fruit), I’m now well-versed in the eating possibilities of the crisp and firm Fuyu and the squishy sweet flavour of the Hachiya.Vincenzo Velletri, Slow Food leader and chef of the evening, explored the possibilities quite thoroughly – his roaring wood-fired oven divulging delicious delights throughout the evening. A bruschetta starter in all shades of orange highlighted the crunchy tartness of the Chinese cultivar, with fruit sourced from Spring Hill Orchard. A savory sauce peppered with paprika was a welcome accompaniment to the pork and a sweet cinnamon infused puree, using cooked fruit from Karragullen Fruit Company, was the pièce de résistance for the pillowy panna cotta dessert. It wasn’t just the persimmon on display, though, with the produce from many West Australian producers well represented.The banquet and wines were a wonderful lubricant for discussion. Lively discourse on food security, agritourism possibilities and export issues were well underway. Mingling with the Perth Hills advocates, growers and city-dwelling visitors, the Minister for Food and Agriculture, the Hon. Jackie Jarvis MLC, and Hon. Andrew Hastie MP (Member for Canning) made their commitments to preserving the heritage and cultivating the future of the Perth Hills clear.In the current food climate of high imports and supermarket driven, high-volume food production, the evening was a tasty reminder to look more closely at the special offerings of our peri-urban regions. If this is a taste of the Perth Hills future, then I’m looking forward to finding out what’s next on the menu.Export UpdateOur stonefruit global markets are starting to rebound post-Covid.As the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on export industries starts to settle, the export of stonefruit is slowly gathering momentum. After discussions with current exporters, I have been able to obtain approximate export numbers for the 22/23 year. Singapore is our major export market with an order of more than 20,000 cases of plums and 1500 cases of nectarines. Hong Kong has started to open up its markets with an order of more than 2500 cases of plums. In early April, as part of a ‘Meet the Buyer’ initiative by DPIRD, an Indonesian delegation visited the DiMarco Orchard, hosted by John and Danny DiMarco. There were encouraging discussions and we hope our stonefruit will be seen on Indonesian shelves in the not-too-distant future. The delegation also visited Karragullen Cool Storage, hosted by Mario Casotti. Thank you to John, Danny and Mario for their generosity of time in hosting DPIRD and the Indonesian delegation. Decisions are still progressing with importers from India, with the plan to open up markets there as the high quality of WA citrus has been well received. With the hopeful return of Air India flights to WA and availability of extra transport capacity, in addition to our close proximity, the potential for a major new market is encouraging. Time will tell.