Sweet, juicy and ready in a flash - South Australian pipis are some of the best in the country, and one particular fishery is leading the way.
WHO Three family-owned pipi fisheries on South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula joined forces two years ago to create the Goolwa PipiCo. Its new processing plant at Port Elliot handles 300 tonnes of pipis harvested from pristine beaches near the mouth of the Murray River. By halving the volume of pipis harvested from this area a decade ago, the company won a sustainability award at the 2015 SA Food Awards.
HOW South Australia's pipi industry has grown swiftly in the past 10 years to deliver restaurant and retail produce worth more than $4 million a year. "They were used only as fishing bait, but then restaurant chefs started featuring pipis, and retail interest took off," says the company's managing director, Tom Robinson. The pipis are harvested by hand-raking a 60-kilometre stretch of uninhabited beach on the Younghusband Peninsula; Goolwa PipiCo takes 60 per cent of the local catch.
WHY "We have a reputation for the best pipis in the nation," says Robinson. "The pipis we harvest are smaller in size and sweeter in flavour than New South Wales pipis, and are popular among consumers because they provide more per kilogram." Goolwa PipiCo sells pipis in half- and one-kilo modified atmosphere packs (a vacuum-sealed system that ensures the freshness of live, purged cockles in brine), and has notched up sales of more than 100,000 bags since September 2014. About three-quarters of the catch goes to Sydney and Melbourne, to restaurants such as Attica, Aria and Spice Temple, with about five per cent exported to Asian markets. "In Australia, it used to only be Asian restaurants that wanted pipis, but now we have demand across all sectors, largely because they're so versatile," says Robinson. "You see them in pasta, seafood broths, salads - my favourite is to toss them on the barbecue, take them off just as the shells begin to open and smother them in butter, garlic, lemon juice, tarragon and capers. They just add something special to a dish."
WHEREGoolwa PipiCo pipis sell for $15 per kilogram and are available nationally. For stockists, call (08) 8554 3706.