Saturday, January 14th – Today, we had the cultural experience of going to the Eumundi Markets as well as the largest ginger factory in Australia. Established in 1979, the Eumundi Markets is an area of several street blocks hosting several hundred outdoor vendor stalls. Half of the vendors were selling products that they had made themselves, including food, soaps, jewelry, wood carvings, and artwork.
These markets were set up like a farmers’ market would be back in the States. The vendors all had their own ways to get the public’s attention. For food vendors, this was usually done by offering samples. One vendor who was selling handmade jelly and salsa, also displayed pictures of herself carrying out the canning process. I thought that this was the best tactic because people are more willing to buy something if they can see where it came from, as well as seeing who made it. I think that it makes the product more trustworthy. In addition to the food stalls, the market included performers who would either play locally traditional instruments or instruments that they had made themselves. One instrument that stood out to me was a string instrument that was like a guitar with only three strings. It was fashioned out of a cigar box and wood. The vendor was actually playing the instruments and then selling them to curious shoppers.
Even though there was a lot of shade from all of the tents that were set up, the weather was still very hot and it was very humid. For a person from Wyoming, the humidity feels like you are walking around in a room with a swimming pool in it. The temperature was in the 90s, which is hot in a dry heat, but feels that much heavier when the humidity is so high. When we stopped to eat lunch, we decided to order frozen fruit smoothies. I ordered one that was passion fruit flavored. It was passion fruit that was frozen and blended. It tasted a little bit bitter and had a lot of passion fruit seeds in it. It was still the perfect refresher on a hot day walking around in the sun.
In the afternoon, we visited The Ginger Factory, production site for Buderim Ginger and a local tourist attraction. We received a guided tour of the actual factory where the ginger is processed. The tour began with us learning a little bit about how ginger farming was started in Australia. As it turns out, during World War II, there was one farmer who decided to plant a ginger root in the ground, just to see if it would work. He found out that the soil and climate in south-east Queensland was perfect for growing ginger. From there, production took off and by the late 1940s, Australia had the largest ginger production in the world.
Next on the tour, we walked into a room where we could see where the ginger was being sorted. First the ginger would be washed, sorted and washed again. There were several different types of conveyor belts where the ginger was sorted by fiber content (the perfect amount is 33%), size and shape. The different areas were the ginger was sorted depends on where the ginger will be used. It could be packaged as raw ginger, ginger candy, ginger spices, other flavored products, or just whole ginger roots.
This ginger factory supplies Australia with 75% of their ginger consumption and exports ginger to 17 different countries. Every part of the ginger is used. Even the stem is used back at the farms as compost. There are 30 different farms that grow the ginger and only five of them have any machinery to take the ginger out of the ground. At the other farms, the ginger is picked by hand by traveling student ‘backpackers’ or other people who needed a temporary job.
The next room on the tour was the cooking and storage room. The ginger was put into large containers, would soak in water then would cook for a short time – less than 20 minutes. There were some of the containers that looked clear, and that meant that they were waiting to be cooked, and the ones that had a yellow color to them were ones that were already cooked and ready to move on to whatever they were going to made into.
The next part of the tour was my favorite- the tasting room. There were drinks and plates of food prepared for all of the guests on the tour. The drink was a non-alcoholic ginger beer Kind of like a less sweet ginger ale soda), then there were five different types of samples that everyone could try. As the tour guide talked about each sample, we were able to try each one. There was a piece of pineapple that was soaked in ginger, a meatball that was covered in a ginger sauce, a ginger cookie with frosting, a cracker with ginger on it, and a piece of ginger that was coated in sugar. My personal favorite was the meat ball and there were even recipe cards that were given out for each of the samples.
I learned about the different uses of ginger such as that 55% of herbal medicines use ginger, it helps with motion sickness, an anti-inflammatory, and helps thin the blood. I enjoyed this part of the class because we got to learn about something that was agricultural, which is part of my field of study. I like to see where food comes from and how different products are used. Now I even have a product to counteract my motion sickness as we board the ferry to Fraser Island. I look forward the rest of the trip as our time in Australia comes to a close.