By Mick Jensen
Trish McLaren is the district’s queen of home made jams, chutneys and pickles and lives by the philosophy that food “needs to be used and not wasted”.
Her food is also helping others.
Now 80, she has been involved with food preserving since she was a young girl growing up in Willowby.
She and husband Ken have a large, well laid out and bountiful vegetable garden at their Tinwald home and also fruit trees and fruit bushes.
Donations of fruit and vegetables, as well as preserving jars, also come Trish’s way on a regular basis, courtesy of family, friends and the wider community.
“Now is harvest time, so there is an abundance of produce to work with.
“I’ve been preserving all of my life, so it’s a part of who I am. At this time of the year I’ll be in the kitchen cooking and bottling at least four times a week, ‘ said Trish.
When visited by Ashburton Courier, Trish had donated lemons in the pot and was making marmalade. There was also a batch of ginger beer fizzing away and a big pot of home grown beetroot ready to be used for chutney.
“Most of what I make is organic and spray free – it might not always look the best, but it has plenty of taste.
“Because there is so much flavour in my fruit, for example, I don’t need to use as much sugar.”
For the last two years Trish has been selling her jams, chutneys, pickles, sauces and relishes at the Ashburton Farmers’ Market.
Proceeds from the sales have been given to Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Christchurch.
Last year she presented RMH with a cheque for $6000 and so far this year her total is sitting at around the $5000 mark.
Some $940 of this year’s total comes from Trish’s recent 80th birthday, when she asked family and friends to give a donation to RMH in lieu of a present.
The Ashburton Farmers’ Market has made Trish an honorary member and does not charge her stall or membership fees because of her benevolent work.
Trish has been a keen supporter of Ronald McDonald since her family received extensive use of the venue more than eight years ago.
“My grandson Scott, who is now nine, was born nine weeks premature and his parents spent a number of nights in Ronald McDonald House over a seven-week period.
“It’s a cause very close to my heart.”
She has made annual trips to Ronald McDonald House with donations of her home preserving and was sent two cooking aprons by RMH for her birthday.
Her love of food preservation goes back to her early years growing up in Willowby.
“Mum died when I was three and my dad was the original Willowby solo parent and he brought me up.
“I was also brought up by the ladies of Willowby, who used to take me into their homes and share the skills of preserving food.
“There were no freezers in those days, so everything went into jars and bottles.”
Raspberry jam remains a big seller and also a favourite of Mrs McLaren.
“Dad was a shearer and freezing worker, but he also used to make his own raspberry jam and most years he would win the top prize for it at the local show.”
Mrs McLaren aims to clear out some of her stocks of jams and pickles at the Ashburton Farmer’s Market over the coming weeks and will stop selling at the end of the season in April.
“I’ve enjoyed being a part of the market and I encourage more growers and sellers to join it.”
In 2016 she filled 1596 jars with her produce and last year close to 3000.
“I can’t stop and I won’t stop preserving because I firmly believe that no food should be
“I encourage more people to grow food and to feed themselves because we can all do it.”
Mrs McLaren reckons she has enough food stored away to feed the people of Tinwald for a couple of weeks, at least.