Roadside fruit stalls selling fresh produce on the very property where it’s grown are scarce in Auckland these days, but you’ll find one of these rarities at the family-owned and operated Boric orchard in Kumeu, northwest of the city centre. Seventeen varieties of apple are grown here, along with pears, citrus, figs, plums and quince. The ‘stall’ is actually a food market, selling not only the fruit that grows just a stone’s throw from the door but also a fantastic range of gourmet products, fine wine and craft beer. Growing apples, though, forms the core of the business and lies at the heart of a family story which begins with Frank and Zorka Boric.
Frank emigrated from Croatia’s Dalmatian coast in the late 1920s and Zorka followed suit a few years later, both making their way to Auckland’s western suburbs where they met, married and started a family. In 1941, they established an orchard in Henderson where many other Croatian families were planting some of New Zealand’s first vineyards. In the early 1960s, the couple bought some land in Kumeu and their sons, Milenko and Barry, together with Frank, transformed the property into a working orchard. Apple trees were planted with various other fruit trees to help with pollination – among them are some old apple and pear trees which were transplanted from Henderson and are still producing fruit 75 years on.
Today the orchard is managed by Michael Boric, the son of Milenko and his wife Sonja. The orchard is now mostly organic, with limited spraying, lots of beneficial insects, and roaming chickens helping to reduce pests and diseases. Gala, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious are just a few of the popular varieties they grow. Some have an interesting back story such as the tart Oratia Beauty, which takes its name from the place where it was discovered and listed as a new apple by the New Zealand Institute of Horticulture in 1932.
For better quality control, the Boric orchard’s apples are ‘select picked’ as they ripen rather than ‘strip picked’, where you just pick every fruit on the tree. This way the fruit’s natural sugars and flavours are allowed to develop. For example, Galas can be picked up to five times in a season which starts in late January and finishes in May. By the end of this period, the apples have turned a deep burgundy. By being left to ripen on the tree, the fruit develops more flavour, sweetness and beneficial antioxidants. The apple skin is also known to be packed with vitamin A and C; the old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ wasn’t coined for nothing.
The harvest usually finishes in early June when the family pick their Pink Lady crop. All their late-season apples, including Splendour, Winesap and Kempton, are good keepers and are stored and chilled on-site to sell throughout winter.
Barry and his wife Maria’s sons, Franco and Stefan, were responsible for expanding the original fruit store into a food market in 2012 in order to sell vegetables, seafood, meat and wine alongside their orchard produce. They realised the family had a unique location, with their orchard and shop sitting on the corner of State Highway 16 and the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway. In 2014, they turned the old packing shed into a delicatessen with ice cream, coffee and a juice bar, while the wine and specialty area was enlarged to sell homeware and local artisanal food items.
Try Baba Zoric's apple cake
This Boric family recipe creates a traditional Croatian apple cake that's very simple to make. It's firm and high, cuts beautifully and keeps well. The texture is reminiscent of a European apple strudel.
Story by: Tracey Sunderland
Photography by: Vanessa Lewis