On my recent trip to the Eastern Cape, I found so many surprising little places including Marilyn’s 60s Diner, A new microbrewery in Tsitsikamma, the Oudebosch Farmstall as well as The Belfry Kitchen. I also had a chance to check out two working farms, proteas and honey bush tea, of which is the first I’ll blog about.
When Dewald from Oudebosch asked if we’d be keen to take a quick trip up to the Regyne Protea Farm near his farmstall, we jumped at the chance. Regyne is the largest commercial protea farm in the country, with most of their flowers heading out the door for export overseas. Proteas are incredibly popular in Europe, Dewald explained as he lead us around Regyne. Oudebosch organises hour-long tours to the working farm throughout the week and Dewald showed us around with the clear comfort of understanding how this farm works.
The nursery is quite fascinating here. Seeds from dead protea heads are collected and planted in small containers, ready to be planted when they’re strong enough across the farm. Rows and rows of baby plants sit ready and waiting for their turn to blossom out on the land. The farm cultivates around 20 different varieties of proteas and we even found a sneaky Australian species that had been planted as an experiment a few years ago.
The protea fields stretch as far as the hilly horizon, with the pinkish-white buds peaking out through all of the greenery, waiting for their turn to be picked and packaged. The proteas are cultivated through plastic tunnels in the ground that essentially help with irrigation and protect the surrounding soil. Each bush can last for up to 15 years, hitting their prime around 5 or 6 years old. Once a bush is ‘dead’, it is removed and replaced by a younger, more virile counterpart from the nursery.
In the packing shed, the stems of the proteas are cleared of their leaves, while the more delicate proteas for shipping are wrapped in a thin paper shield and then stored inside a massive cold room. Make no mistake, this is a serious production line, with different belts running different orders for shipping. Buckets of proteas and pin cushions as well as some ‘filler’ foliage line the room, while the busy staff delicately place together flowers in different boxes.
What I did find out, and for me was bemusing, is that the Protea industry is a rather competitive one. Different producers specialise in certain varieties and some are so secret that I wasn’t allowed to even take photos of them in case another competitor saw what the farm had been up to. Our hosts explained how different protease are popular for different occasions too. I love them all, but the white protea, popular at weddings naturally, had to be my favourite with it’s lime green hue.
The farm also takes orders from the public, you can get in touch with them to check on availability and place an order. The Regyne Protea Farm Facebook page has all the detail you need for this. If you’d like to spend some time on a tour at the farm, get in touch with Dewald at Oudebosch.
My visit to Regyne Protea Farm forms part of the 7 Wonders of our World Campaign. As with all my posts, I retain full editorial control.