On our way home after a day’s shopping trip to Launceston we stopped in Avoca, it is a small village that we normally drive straight through. We had slowed down as you must in towns, and noticed a small blackboard on the side of the road that advertised fresh vegetables and flowers. Even though it was late we figured the sign was still out so we took a detour.
At the gate, the owner Steve escorted us to the garden where his other half, Annie was still working. Annie asked us what we would like and immediately cut or pulled out the vegetables as we chose them.
The town of Avoca was known as Camp Hill and St Paul’s Plains. It is very small yet described by Tasmanians’ as a principal town in the Fingal Valley – on the Esk Highway that runs across Tasmania to the east. It is 27 ks in from the Midlands Highway and serves the communities of Royal George and Rossarden, places we are yet to discover.
In 1833 John Wedge, surveyor and explorer, named the town, having been inspired by the Thomas More poem ‘The Sweet Vale of Avoca’. Avoca’s namesake is in County Wicklow in Ireland.
There are a number historic colonial buildings including the Parish Hall, the Union Hotel. Our new friends in Avoca are living in the handsome Marlborough House, built in 1845, that is thought to have been designed by James Blackburn, the architect who built St Thomas’ Anglican Church designed in a Romanesque Revival style directly opposite theirs, and the church at Port Arthur. Steve has almost finished restoring Marlborough House inside.
Whilst I am always anxious to immediately cook fresh picked garden vegetables, Annie’s carrots are grown from heirloom seeds ‘Lubyana’ (Daucas carota var. sativa) that did not end up in a cooking pot for a few days but then I suppose the ones we buy in the shops are ancient, but not ancient in the romantic meaning of the word. When I cooked the carrots I served them simply with Tasmanian Kennebec potatoes and tiny French style lentils grown in Australia. If anyone is growing lentils in Tasmania let me know! The lentils I bought are distributed by Raw Materials who also sell on-line.
I had purchased the ‘Puy’ Lentils in Launceston’s enticing food and wine store Alps & Amici 52 Abbott St, East Launceston TAS 7250 (03) 6331 1777 (no website to refer you to).
Annie and Steve have just gained permission to open a cafe in the adjoining school house building so watch this space for more info on Marlborough House Garden Cafe in Blenheim Street Avoca. Roz