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How does one get a fresh peach from a tree into a packet of dried fruit? Through a labour-intensive but interesting process, says Elsabe Visser from Rouzelle Dried Fruits outside Worcester.
Elsabe and her husband Hennie run a dried-fruits stall at the Pure Boland Market. They know exactly what it means to have a busy season. In the couple of summer weeks that the Western Cape’s peaches and apricots are harvested, they have to process about 100 tonnes of fresh fruit on the farm in Breërivier.
The peach-drying process
Each peach (or apricot) gets carefully pitted and halved by hand. The halves are spread across huge drying trays before they get treated against discolouration. Next, they are moved to a level outdoor area where the sun does its magic on the drying bed. Thousands of peach and apricot halves turn into sweet, deep-orange dried fruit, about one seventh of their original size. As the drying progresses over days, each tray is moved along to make space for the new batches to come in.
Packaging is up next, and then the Visser couple takes their stock to the Groenstoor (and a number of other markets beyond the Breede Valley’s borders).
“It’s hard work,” says Elsabe. There’s no time to rest when the harvest comes in, and Saturday market days are booked way in advance.
Nutritious feast on the table
Their market stall offers not only peaches and apricots which they grow themselves, but also a variety of other dried fruits that they buy to resell, as well as nuts, fruit rolls and sweets, and even sundried tomatoes (which they dry themselves, but in smaller batches).
Of course, it’s hard to sell 15 tonnes of dried fruit to customers who browse farmer’s markets. That’s why Hennie and Elsabe send the bulk of their stock to S.A.D, one of the leading dried-fruit suppliers to the South African market.
“We’ve been running this business for the past four years, but actually I had been doing this (farming) my entire life,” says Hennie who has extensive experience in agriculture.
The couple joined the Pure Boland Market in its early days and their stall remains one of the favourites. Both agree that as long as Mother Nature provides, and they’re able to keep supplying their popular product, they’ll continue making a living this way.
No machines. No industrialised production lines. Just fresh fruit and sunlight that come together for a naturally nutritious sweet treat!
• Rouzelle Dried Fruits is available at every Pure Boland Market, on the first Saturday of every month. For more information, click here.