So Ladies and Gents, the last leg of my trip around Australia’s South West brings me to Manjimup, where over 80% of the shire is made up of National Park and forestry.
Manjimup, situated in the Southern Forests region, is an agricultural hot spot, home of the Pink Lady apple, delicious marron and famous black truffle (more on them later).
It’s quite remarkable that such a small pocket of Western Australia grows such an abundance and variety of produce. The locals say it’s probably down to the fertility of the soil, purity of the rainfall and 365 growing days a year. To celebrate the diversity of the horticultural industry in the region, the Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival, a unique community event, is held every year.
And I was invited to take part in the Cherry Stone Spitting Competition! Ooooh yeahhh!! I’m not the most amazing photographer in the world, but I reckon this is the best photo I’ve ever taken. Our tie-dye hero is taking part in the warm-up heats and LOOK! you can see the cherry stone flying through the air and everything!
I arrived in Manjimup the evening before the festival to meet with the organisers and it was here that I was to meet my main competition for the next day’s stone spitting extravaganza……Mr. Rob Palmer.
For folk back in England, Rob is a handy man on Australian home improvement programs and also won their version of Strictly a couple of years ago. But he’s not light on his feet, he’s a big brute of a fella and could spit a cherry stone through a concrete block I reckon. During our practice spit he tried to psyche me out a little bit, comparing me with the capitulating England cricket team, saying I’d choke on the big day (metaphorically and quite literally).
But I wasn’t put off, I’m the Taste Master! I was determined. I was focused. I was dedicated.
….I was hiding cherries in my pocket to practice at home that night.
Before the big showdown I visited Kay Gravett who grows russelberries, quite a tart fruit which are unique to the region. Kay grows the raspberry-esque fruit in her garden and uses it in all kinds of jams and chutneys, just another example of the diversity of produce in the Southern Forests region.
I also attended some really interesting talks on kale…
…watched some fellas chopping wood really really quickly…
…and had some chilled cherry juice, using an old fashioned press.
OK folks, this is it, competition time.
Rob Palmer, you may be an extremely popular television personality on Better Homes and Gardens, a top bloke, and wowed thousands of armchair fans with your Paso Doble, but I’m afraid I’m going to beat you at the Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival Stone Spitting Competition.
There were about 20 competitors and the standard was very, very high. Everyone was vying for first place and those return tickets to New Zealand (I thought it was a joke, but that actually WAS the prize!) Last year’s champ had flown in from overseas, and was not giving up his title easily with a spit of well over nine metres.
Rob did well but got nowhere near his PB of the practice rounds, if he’d done so, he’d be wearing that cherry spitting crown right now. I, on the other hand, completely over performed with the second longest spit of the day, 11.46 metres. “An audacious effort by Mr Taste Master!” (comperes words, not mine!).
If I was to make a 30 second trailer for the Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival, it’d probably look something like this.
After the Manjimup Festival I headed 10kms down the road to the Wine and Truffle Co.
Established in 1997 the Wine and Truffle Company is the largest producer of the superior black perigord truffle in the southern hemisphere and exports their truffles worldwide. Company manager Gavin told me the reason they’ve been so successful in growing here is because of the cool, temperate climate and soft, rich soil, and in Bella and Andy they have a pair of top truffling pedigree canines.
I watched on in awe as Bella sniffed out frozen truffles Gavin had buried under the top soil as part of her extensive truffle training program. The Wine and Truffle Company use Labradors as their dog of truffling choice because they’re always hungry.
If I came back as an animal in another life, I wouldn’t mind being a truffle hunting Labrador.
Tips and Tricks
Getting to Manjimup and Southern Forests region
- Self-drive is the best way to journey to and explore the region.
- Combine Margaret River Wine region and Southern Forests for a spectacular gourmet loop, winding through coastal scenery, tall karri forests, rich coastal plains and wetlands.
Where I stayed
My insider tips
- You can check out the local produce at the Manjimup Farmers Markets, held on the 1st & 3rd Saturday of each month or on this great web-site about Southern Forest Food.
Events to keep an eye out for
- Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival is held annually in December
For a full list of events in the region visit: www.westernaustralia.com