Sunraysia Farmers’ Market, Mildura and Italianità

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You don’t have to look far to find Italianità in Mildura and the surrounding district, Sunraysia. Many of you may know of the famous restaurateur from Mildura, Stefano de Piero, not only noted for his fine cuisine at the Grand Hotel some years ago, but also through his series, ‘A Gondola on the Murray’ and various cookbooks. Not so many know about the thousands of  Italo -Australiani who contribute to the farming community around the district.  Although first generation Italians now make up less that 2% of the population, second and third generation Italo- Australiani make up a significant proportion of the population and have contributed much to the town, its culture, agriculture and the arts.

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A quick tour around the Sunraysia Farmers’ Market, held every first and third Saturday of the month, will provide you with some irresistible provisions for touring the district. An important consideration, when buying fruit and vegetables, is to take into account any State border crossings. As Mildura sits in Victoria, close to South Australia and New South Wales, quarantine laws demand that one must forfeit most fruit and vegetables on entering another State.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This is enforced by officials upon entering South Australia and through signage and the voluntary depositing of goods on entering Victoria and New South Wales. The borders can be confusing upon entering/leaving the Sunraysia district which seems to have some extraordinary quarantine lines within Victoria itself. It’s all about protecting South Australia and the Sunraysia district from fruit-fly.

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Some demographics from a past census will show that 353,000 Italian migrants arrived in Australia in the post war period, from 1948 through to 1970. Most of the Italian born are now aged over 60. They have kept alive many of the farming traditions learnt from pre-war times and this is particularly evident in preserving techniques and salame making.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wine industry in the Sunraysia district makes up 80% of all Victorian wine grape production. The highways linking Mildura with Swan Hill are lined with farms selling wine, olive oil, citrus fruits, avocados and vegetables. If you haven’t had a chance to visit the farmers’ market, there are plenty of roadside stalls with honesty boxes selling all kinds of fresh produce, on both sides of the Murray river in each state.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Trentham Estate Restaurant, Mildura

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMildura is situated on the banks of the slow winding Murray river in the far North-West corner of Victoria, Australia. It calls like a sunny siren from its distant post, attracting many travellers in winter and early spring, those who wish to experience big, blue skies and sunny days. The land is flat but very productive, given that 80% of Victoria’s wine grapes come from this area, along with crops of oranges, avocados, and other vegetables. The architecture is modern and bland, with a touch of Spanish Mission here and there. It is an odd town but still very appealing, with broad city streets lined with palm trees and ornamental vines, one famous hotel and some very good art galleries.

We have stopped here for the night on our journey to the outback. First stop is lunch at Trentham Estate winery, then an overnight camp along the banks of the Murray River, followed by a morning visit to the Sunraysia Farmers’ Market.

View from the outdoor tables on the verandah
View from the outdoor tables on the verandah

Lunch at Trentham Estate Restaurant.

I started with a leek and potato soup, which came with some surprising little extras on the side, a dollop of house made tapenade with a touch of lemon zest, some crisps, and small wedges of roasted zucchini. Small, but very satisfying, especially with the tapenade swirled through the soup.

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Mr Tranquillo opted for a main course only, although I knew that he would devour half my dolce. A substantial fish pie, containing Murray Cod, smoked salmon, and prawns, this dish was well executed and I was extremely jealous. I scored a few forkfuls!

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seafood pie, creamy and substantial.
seafood pie, creamy and substantial.

I opted for another entrée, this time a tart of roasted beetroot, creamy fetta and caramelised onion. The puff pastry overwhelmed this dish and I felt that the dish was too dry.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next came a dessert of quince tarte tatin, served with ice cream and hazlenut. This little treat stole the show, and as predicted, Mr T developed a taste for half.

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The other pleasure to be found at Trentham is the wine tasting room with its glorious view and pleasant staff. We purchased the Nebbiolo. This Italian variety is hard to find in Melbourne. Trentham’s vintage did not disappoint.

Wine tasting room at Trentham Estate.
Wine tasting room at Trentham Estate.

TRENTHAM ESTATE WINERY

Sturt Highway
Trentham Cliffs
NSW 2738
Australia