The new home: Australia // Francis Parer, vegetable marketer

Francis Parer, vegetable marketer

Francis started a vegetable market at the Parer property in Box Hill and is believed to be the first one to grow tomatoes in Australia.  

Francis Parer was born in Alella in 1836 and left for Australia when he was 17. In partnership, he commenced a business of general produce dealers in Little Bourke Street. He later entered the hospitality business buying in partnership the ‘Spanish Restaurant’ on Elisabeth Street and later, the Victoria Restaurant on Bourke Street with his brothers. In 1870 he purchased 40 acres of land at Box Hill at £15 per acre. The property became a famous market garden where he grew all kinds of vegetables and orchards. It is believed the first tomatoes in Australia were grown there. Legend says that Councillor John Paul Carolin, later on Mayor of Bendigo, visited the market garden and got fascinated with such a completely new crop: Spanish tomatoes. In 1890s he visited Spain and brought out Manel Borrell to grow tomatoes commercially in Bendigo.

Francis kept growing tomatoes in his garden in Box Hill and brought them to the Crystal Palace, where they had to persuade the clientele to taste the ‘exotic’ tomato sauce. The recipe was sold to Leggo in Bendigo and to Hoadley, a jam maker. For many Australians it might be a culinary sacrilege to have a meat pie without tomato sauce. Did the Parers ever imagine that their two recipes combined would become an Australian national dish? Surely they did...