Paradise to plate Posted by Tracey Withers - 23 April 2015 These two claim to not really know what they’re doing. But wholesome things are poking up out of the dirt, all bright greens and plump reds, and looking very delicious. Exotic leaves, tomatoes, eggplants… Phase Two of the veggie plot, co-planted by Executive Chefs Alastair Waddell of qualia and coca chu’s Adam Woodfield , is looking semi-professional, actually. “We’ve only set up here in the nursery area recently and put the igloo up about a month ago,” says Woodfield. “Everything’s coming up. I can’t believe it!” Phase One of Project Garden, however, began a while back. Waddell established a kitchen garden right next to Long Pavilion at qualia a little over a year ago and his beets, chickpeas, borlotti beans and even quinoa were bursting up and begging for extra space. Meanwhile, Woodfield had been foraging wild produce from the island for ages. “I’d get green mangoes from the tree above the marina; for green papaya we’d look behind the workshop,” he explains. Woodfield also noticed that this tropical air created natural flavour. The two chefs got talking about stuff they couldn’t find in the Brisbane markets, and spring seemed ripe for a bigger, better patch they could both mine for use in daily specials and seasonal menus. The vibrant produce picked from the Hamilton Island chefs’ veggie garden. Photo by Julian Kingma. The chefs tapped the big, green-focussed brain of Hugh Clelland, the mastermind behind the flowerbeds and perfectly proportioned gardens all over the island. Clelland tweaked the traditional garden-bed idea, setting up a pot system that instead maximises the soil. “The pots have layers of recycled glass from the island crushed in the bottom for drainage. The residual wine and beer on the glass acts as a microbial food for the layer [of soil] above, which is a mix of bio-solids and green waste composted for 12-18 months,” says Waddell. “After germination, mulch can be applied to help with moisture conservation and weed control, and that mulch is another by-product of the island recycling green waste.” This is island organic. “The only thing that goes near the leaves is a light spray of chilli water to keep the pesky insects at bay.” Even delicate leaves, such as the very interesting mini red leprechaun lettuce and royal oak leaf, which nobody expected to like the climate, are loving it. “We’ve also got baby radish varieties — French breakfast, black and watermelon — all with their own characteristics and we have created some remarkable dishes from these,” says Waddell. Yes to a Coral Seaside-salad ... “Nasturtium leaves and flowers are in abundance right now for a peppery addition to a salad, as are baby vegetables such as fennel, heirloom-carrot varieties and beetroot. Our tomatoes are definitely perfect for lunch at qualia’s Pebble Beach - simple, with cold-pressed olive oil, freshly picked basil and burrata. If the fig tree decides to fruit this year then we may have something very special! Red, plump chillis picked from the Hamilton Island chefs’ veggie garden. Photo by Julian Kingma. Next to the fat chillies of all types and kaffir lime leaves that Woodfield will turn into hot, sweet magic at coca chu , more wild things souvenired from around the island are growing. “I’ve found galangal, lemongrass, wild coriander and also melon,” he says. “Hugh’s also found some beans and berries that in Indonesia they use in sweet and savoury dishes.” He’s imagining next-level this year. “I want to try beach bananas and herbs such as cha-om, which is good for soups and curries, and rice paddy herb, which is great in salads. Both Alastair and I want to get into things that we’ve never tried or even tasted.” All hail the fresh, organic, exciting flavours. “We’ll only ever pick what will be utilised on the day,” says Waddell. “In our island location, having that is a beautiful luxury. Fresh is best, simple as that.” Paradise to plate. This article first appeared in Hamilton Island’s REEF Magazine. About the Author What do you love to most of all on holiday? Explore, read (try to) speak as the locals speak, eat. Repeat. Ocean or pool? Ocean. Favourite on-island dining experience? Pebble Beach is sexiest at sundown and coca chu does my kind of spin on spicy. I can’t to see the island produce hit the plate. Sundowner? G&T. Please finish this sentence: Paradise (apart from Hamilton Island) is ... wherever I can switch my phone off and look up at night and be astonished by all the stars.