Endemic marron a fine treat
Picture: Iain Gillespie

If you sit down to a fine-dining establishment with marron on the menu, chances are it has come from the Southern Forests region, where they thrive like no other place in the world.

Thanks to pristine conditions, marron are endemic to the region and of the world's yearly supply, WA contributes three-fifths of it, according to Blue Ridge Marron's Peter McGinty.

Together with business partner Steve Vidovich, they source - and grow - 18 tonnes of marron annually, nearly a fifth of marron worldwide, which they then sell to restaurants, wholesalers and export to Europe.

This supplied marron comes from about 160 licensed marron producers from Perth down to Augusta and across to Esperance.

"World production of marron is still less than 100 tonnes per year, so WA provides a huge chunk of it," Mr McGinty said.

"People have taken them to different countries and tried to produce them but because of poor water quality or temperature - they like a cooler climate - they simply won't grow."

Mr McGinty, who has lived in Yanmah, 12km from Manjimup, for the past 35 years, said marron were grown semi-intensively in purpose-built ponds or through extensive cultivation, where people trapped existing farm dams.

At the Blue Ridge facility, rainbow trout were also grown in the dams that supplied the ponds to make them more sustainable.

"Below the trout, in the same water, we keep the marron and the waste from the trout feeds the marron, so we don't actually feed the marron in these dams," he said.

While most Australians knew what marron was, outside of the country, not many people did and Mr McGinty said he was constantly asked what it was and what it tasted like.

He said the best way to describe the delicacy was to compare it with lobster.

"Some lobsters have a tendency to get a bit stringy the bigger they get, whereas marron have more of a flaked-type flesh and the taste and texture doesn't diminish the bigger they get," the former cherry farmer said.

Like any food with a delicate flavour, the best way to cook marron was to keep it simple, Mr McGinty said.

"Restaurants tend to take the flesh out for fine dining because it is less stringy and has a unique, delicate flavour, while some restaurants boil and chop the tail up into medallions and serve it back up in the shell. As for me, it doesn't get much better than grilling it over a fire and eating it with crusty bread."

Pemberton's Dave Evans is another man who knows his marron. He owns and runs the small family-based wholesale and retail business Forest Fresh Marron and said marron thrived in the region because every condition - from the water quality to the air, temperature and food availability - was ideal.

While marron was still a little-known produce, exposure on television cooking shows had helped boost its profile.

"The flavour of marron is quite unlike any other produce and is delicate, sweet and succulent," he said.

The West Australian

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