Meet the grower

Meet the grower: Paul Russell

Hawke’s Bay Cauliflower and Leek Soup


From the lush Hawke’s Bay, we’ve made a deliciously smooth and velvety Cauliflower and Leek soup, finished with a hint of vintage cheddar. This hearty soup evokes memories of the delicious cauliflower cheese that mum used to make. Filled with the goodness of locally grown cauliflowers and delicious leeks – both packed with vitamins and antioxidants, this is a warming winter meal that’s good for your body as well as your soul.

Paul Russell owns Phil’s Gardens, a Hawke’s Bay based fruit and vegetable wholesaler. Naked Cuisine source the cauliflowers for our Hawke’s Bay Cauliflower and Leek soup from this local grower.

Where did your love for farming begin?
Well, it’s a bit of a love story really. I met the love of my life, Kat, back in April 2015. Her parents were market gardeners and owners of Phil’s Gardens. From there I got involved and really enjoyed it. When they retired, me and Kat took over.

What signifies a good quality cauliflower?
Colour is a big one, if a cauliflower is a creamy white colour, with bright green leaves and stalks, it signifies that the plant is receiving plenty of minerals and water from the soil. This makes for the most nutritious and delicious veggies.

For first timers that might like to start growing their own veggies, what are some top tips on getting started?
Growing your own veggies requires hard work and the right attitude. Most crops need plenty of work between planting and harvesting, so be patient. But most of all, don’t be afraid of failure. Growing veggies can be temperamental. Don’t be put-off if your first crop isn’t so great.

What are the five pillars of farming for successful crops?
Good ground first and foremost. Plenty of vitamin D helps. Make sure you keep on top of weeds. Don’t forget to feed your veggies. Keep an eye out for insects.

For people that haven’t visited Hawke’s Bay, can you tell us why it’s so special?
The climate in Hawke’s bay is very forgiving. Not too cold, not too wet. This means the bay is great for growing most veggies – and is also just a nice place to be.

Why would you recommend buying local produce?
Above anything else is freshness. Our veggies are harvested daily to ensure only top quality produce is available. You just don’t get the same freshness when veggies have travelled.

Favourite and least favourite vegetable?
Favourite: I know this might sound a bit bland but you just can’t beat new-season spuds. I also really enjoy Asian vegetables (choy sum, bok choy etc.).
Least Favourite: Brussel sprouts, only because Mum used to boil the life out of them. They’re not too bad fried with garlic and butter.