Fruits of labour

By Grace Jones | posted on January 17, 2019

ALBANY city councillor Robert Sutton and his partner Debbie Walker are set to build a pomegranate shack on their 40-hectare Napier property now a development application to do so has been approved.

Mr Sutton says he enjoys getting his hands dirty at the couple’s pomegranate orchard.

“We planted our first few hundred trees in 2015 after Debbie’s niece introduced us to pomegranates,” he says.

“The health benefits of pomegranates absolutely staggered us.

“After I saw that most pomegranates you can buy in supermarkets are imported from America I saw the opportunity to fill a niche market.”

Since then Mr Sutton and Ms Walker have planted 3000 trees and have decided to broaden their horizons.

“Pomegranates have taken over my life and to see the results of having fruiting trees from what was an empty paddock is amazing,” he says.

“We decided after last season that we didn’t want to head down the normal line and that we wanted to try value adding to our fruit.”

Mr Sutton says he and Ms Walker made three trips to Turkey last year to learn from farmers who have cultivated the fruits for centuries.

“Getting the right information is hard, which is why we’ve been going to Turkey,” he says.

“We’re importing a special juicer that will fresh freeze the pomegranates so no water gets into the juice.”

Mr Sutton says a wide variety of products will eventually be sold from the pomegranate shack.

“We want to make pomegranate ice cream using Turkish methods that use pure pomegranate juice and no water,” he explains.

“And we want to make pomegranate molasses or pomegranate lemon, which is what the Turkish call it.

“It’s sweet but tart at the same time.”

Ms Walker says the shack will sell juicers so people can hand-press their own pomegranates.

“We’ve also spoken with a local winemaker to eventually provide them with our juice and them make wine for us,” she adds.

“I would love to eventually see a sparkling pomegranate wine that we can sell.”

Mr Sutton says it will be a few months until the business is up and running.

“It’s going to be a big year,” he says.