Edible flowers – Natural garnish for popular chefs

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Natash Spin’s partner Matthew Spin with the fl owers from their garden. Picture: SUPPLIED

It could be Fiji’s first edible flower company located in a jungle of the Garden Island of Fiji and supplies natural garnish for popular chefs in the country.

The ingredients from Elevate Edible Flowers have found its way on to food menus offered by restaurants and various hotels including five-star hotels around the country.

The organic garden of edible flowers, which sits in a jungle, is also known at the Gaiatree Sanctuary which has also attracted visitors over the years.

The company’s founder, Natasha Spins, said chef Lance Seeto had also used ingredients from their organic farm which sits in Vatulaga between Somosomo Village and Matei, where the airstrip is.

“For the premier menu when Malamala first opened, chef Lance Seeto reached out for some of the speciality spices and edible flowers we were growing,” she said.

“He had seen the farm during a visit to film the Taste of Paradise Taveuni episode which also featured Gaiatree Sanctuary.

He knew we had garnish he couldn’t find anywhere else and asked if we could start a weekly delivery for his new menu.

“When he launched KANU, our edible flowers were featured across the bar menu and this opened up the eyes of bartenders around the country to create new ways to bring cocktails to life.

“KANU was the first to feature the magical Blue Chai Flowers that can be used to infuse liquors or teas with a hypnotic blue tone that changed instantly with the addition of any citrus acid.”

The creative potential this flower introduced for the bar team, she said was like nothing seen before.

“For example, 100 per cent local blue ice in a gin and tonic that changed naturally from Fiji blue into a magical magenta, so it’s an exciting time and we’ve successfully started Fiji’s first gourmet garnish company.”

But this achievement has not come easy as it took them 13 years to finally put things together. After 13 years of dedication developing a slice of raw jungle on Taveuni and planting an organic food forest, they found their niche and it fits in perfectly within their vision of supporting the tourism industry.

“Edible flowers and indoor grown micro greens are the perfect balance of agriculture, technology and the culinary arts.

“Prior to COVID-19 we ran a successful Spice Farm Tour at Gaiatree Sanctuary with rave reviews and through the promotions and media of our farmtotable meals, chefs from around Fiji reached out and asked about our edible flowers.”

Supplying these chefs, Ms Spins said was an exciting part of their business as most wanted to stay local and keep up with food tourism trends around the world. Developing a professional range of non-toxic tropical edible flowers that could be supplied consistently year round has taken her team more than 10 years to create.

The research, development and testing included sourcing rare flowering plants from around the country at the same time ensuring its safety which was a big step leading up to the original spice tour meals.

“Once we started to fill orders for other Fiji chefs, we had to dedicate an additional three years of testing out packaging, shelf life and flavour profiles to ensure we could offer the highest level of product and service.

“This commitment has produced a creative range that fulfils the wish lists of chefs and mixologists for locally grown edible flower garnish that elevates their menus and cocktails.

“We’re proud of the unique range we have developed with tasty flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours, most with a shelf life of more than seven days when refrigerated and 100 per cent compostable PLA plastic packing that keeps them fresh.

“Flowers are not easily washed before service which means it’s vital to only serve organically grown and carefully processed flowers if they are going straight from the farm to the table. Elevate has spent years developing strict growing, harvesting and processing standards to ensure the flowers we deliver to resorts around the country are ready for service.”

The stock includes seasonal edible flowers including edible flowers confetti, a proprietary blend of 20 tropical edible flowers of mixed colours and flavours. Other popular selections are blush petals, elderflower, moringa orchids, peashoots, peppercorns, pandan leaves, galangal and gooseberries.

“The catalogue is growing to include hard to find herbs and vanilla too. We work closely with chefs to tailor fit the seasonal selection to their needs.

“Before the COVID lockdowns we ran a highly rated Spice Garden Tour through Gaiatree Sanctuary and this was a launching pad for where we are today through social media images of our food garnished with beautiful fresh edible flowers which had chefs around the country reaching out.

“At the moment there are no tours, but that could change in the near future. The new tours would focus more on the rare tropical edible flowers and spices we grow and of course a delicious menu that highlights these fresh ingredients.”

Challenges the team has faced over the years included navigating unchartered space as the venture was a new business model for the country, but they were determined to ensure a stable product, eco-packaging and a consistent supply.

“In professional kitchens consistency is key and having our deliveries arrive on time and in perfect order was a benchmark we had to establish.

“Three years into the delivery system we’re confident that we can supply even the large resorts with quality edible flowers on a consistent basis.

“Another challenge was distribution, but Fiji Link came to the rescue. Their team has been so helpful to ensure all deliveries arrived on time.

“But we also teamed up with Aggie Global, a wonderful team of trustworthy women in Nadi, that is connecting many local farmers with unique crops with larger markets.

“Aggie has helped Elevate grow by offering a service to collect at the local airports and deliver to the outer islands. We’ve perfected this process and edible flower orders flow seamlessly each week to resorts, bars and kitchens across Fiji.”

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