Big news from the world of Southland oats and food named after people

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Opinion

Exciting news from Southland (we don’t type that every day) as Plant Research New Zealand renames the newest milling oat cultivar from PRL 12-10-2 to Gardyne in recognition of the outstanding generational contribution of the Gardyne family in Southland to the New Zealand oat industry.

Although many of us oat-heads will miss the simple poetry of PRL 12-10-2, we acknowledge and salute the Gardyne famiy’s service to the cultivation of our much loved grain. The family have been growing oats north of Gore for five generations, since settling in the area in 1876. A well-deserved honour.

The news got us to thinking about other foods that have been named after people, famous or otherwise, and the stories behind the names. We have only included primary products – be they fruit, veg, grain, or beast – because if we started listing dishes named after the good and the great we’d be here for all eternity. Chefs are, after all, notorious arse kissers. You heard it here first.

Caesar’s Mushroom

Speaking of arse kissers, this mushroom of Southern France is probably named for Julius Caesar. It is also known as the King of Mushrooms due to its superior flavour. Watch yourself though – Caesar’s Mushroom is closely related to fly agaric and to the deadly poisonous death cap and the charmingly named destroying angels.

Hass Avocados

The reason you are still paying rent well into your 30s. The undisputed queen of avocados (ava-car-doos) is named after a California postal worker Rudolph Hass who set out to grow a number of Lyon avocado trees in his backyard. His children noticed that one of the trees was noticably different and, indeed, superior to the others. It turned out that a happy chance mutation had created a new variety. Hass patented his fancy new avocado in 1935. The Hass now accounts for 75% of all avocados grown in the US.

John Dory

Could have been worse, they could have named a fish after me.


Where did all the John Dory go? I fear the answer is probably something along the lines of ‘into the bottomless pit of ecological disaster’ but I don’t have the stomach to actually look it up. Suffice to say, in the 80s we used to eat a lot of this fish and now narry a whisper of the evocative name can be heard over the sound of the nation screaming ‘SNAPPER FILLETS’ at the top of our collective lung.

John Dory is the English name for the fish known in Europe as Saint Peter’s (San Pietro, Saint-Pierre, San Pedro) fish. It is said to be a reference to Saint Peter‘s role as “janitor” or doorkeeper at the gates of heaven. The distinctive spot just below beneath the gill is said to be the thumb-print of St Peter, or a reminder of the coin he found in the fish’s mouth—a story from the Gospel of Luke.

Van Gogh Potato

Although it sounds like some beatnik slang from the early 60s, the Van Gogh potato is in fact a rather dreary monument to the most colourful of artists. A poignant reminder that we don’t get to choose how we are remembered. The Van Gogh potato was developed in The Netherlands in 1976.

The Potato Eaters

Sukjunamul (bean sprouts)

The Korean name for bean sprouts is derived from the name of Sin Sukju (1417–1475), a prominent scholar. Sin Sukju betrayed his colleagues and favoured the King’s uncle as a claimant to the throne. People regarded Sin Sukju’s move as more than a little shifty, and so gave his name to mung bean sprouts, which tend to go bad and spoil very easily. Sick burn, Korea.


Shockingly, maddeningly, I am so furious I am shaking like a leaf on a withered vine, the boysenberry was not, according to so-called experts, developed here in New Zealand. It says here, on the so-called internet that the berry was orginally produced in the early 1920s by horticulturist Rudolph Boysen of (pfft) Anaheim, California (snort), who later turned it over to farmer Walter Knott for commercial development. That’s Knott of Knott’s Berry Farm fame rollercoaster fans.


About the Author

David Wrigley

David is a writer and musician from Kemureti/ Cambridge. He has been published in Noble Rot, Nourish Magazine, Turbine|Kapohau, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, and is currently working on his first novel. He has done his time in restaurants in Aotearoa and the UK. Oh, yes. He has done his time.

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