Swan Valley’s sweet success

Rebecca TurnerCountryman
Marlene Katich, with her Dachshund Pablo, at her family’s property in Caversham. She established an ice cream business in 2014.
Camera IconMarlene Katich, with her Dachshund Pablo, at her family’s property in Caversham. She established an ice cream business in 2014. Credit: Rebecca Turner

For those looking to sample some of the most delicious locally produced fresh fruit ice cream that WA has to offer, they cannot go past Kato’s @ 3000 in Caversham.

The Swan Valley business was developed by Marlene Katich in 2014 when she was looking for a way to diversify their local produce stall, while also providing her nephew with a summer holiday job.

“I wanted to develop a business that would help Zachary by getting him to interact more with people,” Mrs Katich said.

Zachary and his twin brother were born prematurely and both boys required Cochlea implants to assist with their hearing.

“Zachary is an incredible young man and he was going into his final year of school. I thought a summer holiday job was a good way to help him develop his confidence talking with people,” Mrs Katich said.

Kato’s @ 3000 has since developed further. In addition to selling mouth-watering fresh fruit ice cream and the farm’s grapes and melons when in season, the business stocks syrups, vinegars, seasoning salts and locally produced jams.

With a background as a home economics teacher, Mrs Katich said she had a passionate and lifelong connection to food and the role it played in developing food habits in children.

She said she hoped to develop the family business to reflect the providence of the foods fed to children and fresh-is-best nature of a local farmgate supplier.

Growing up in the Swan Valley, Mrs Katich has been involved in farming and selling produce from an early age. She said she hoped the area would to remain a productive and appreciated region of WA.

Both Mrs Katich and her husband, Matt, are second-generation farmers in the valley, with their parents having migrated from Croatia and started businesses on nearby properties in the 1950s and 1960s.

Like many properties in the region, the couple’s business continues to be family run. Mrs Katich said their three sons, Curtis, Rhys and Hugo, have completed their schooling and still “put in the hard yards” when they can.

The Katich family grow grapes, pomegranates, melons and figs commercially, and have mandarin, orange, lime and lemon trees for their own use. They also maintain a seasonal vegetable patch.

“The Swan Valley is an amazing place. There is so much produce being grown here, right on the doorstep of Perth,” Mrs Katich said.

It is the gastronomic diversity of the Swan Valley that serves as inspiration when creating new ice cream flavours.

“I have friends and family in the Swan Valley and surrounds delivering produce from their gardens to use with my ice cream, from mangoes to even lychees,” Mrs Katich said.

Ice cream flavours are seasonal and are based on the availability of fruit. A lot of time is spent on living up to the ideal of locally grown produce and every flavour tries to capture an element of what is home made and locally sourced.

Consideration is also made to include a fruit flavour sorbet that is gluten and lactose free.

Some of Kato’s @ 3000 ice cream flavours include Beet Box, made using whole roasted beetroot grown by Peggy, a neighbour, blended with dark and milk chocolate.

Another flavour, Think Pink, combines strawberries, rose syrup and home-made pomegranate syrup with a natural yoghurt.

Hi-vis Mango is made from locally sourced and neighbour-grown mangoes with carrot and white chocolate, while the popular Grime is a refreshing mixture of Italia grapes and lime.

“Grime was named by one of my sons. I had woken up at about 3am one morning and developed a combination of muscat grapes and limes, which I then mixed with natural yoghurt and the gelato base I use,” Mrs Katich said.

“My son woke up around six and I asked him to taste it. He said he really liked it, so I asked him what we should call it and his answer was ‘Grime’ — being that it’s a combination of grapes and limes.”

While Mrs Katich said she looked into buying her own gelato-making equipment, she has found sourcing a gelato base from one of Perth’s best gelato makers was a much more financially viable option for her small business.

The process of making ice cream begins on a Thursday each week, with flavours determined by what fresh locally soured fruit is available.

Mrs Katich makes smaller batches compared with large-scale gelato companies, but this ensures all her ice cream is fresh each weekend and enables her to develop some amazing flavours.

She said having a home economics background had helped when she started out making her own ice cream and over the past few years she had done a lot of experimenting to develop flavours and consistency.

“Ice cream is a very basic construction. I use full fat milk and less sugar in my base and have worked out how to develop the right concentrations of flavours in my syrups,” Mrs Katich said.

“The process starts with the gelato base. I add fresh fruit and syrup, which is worked into the ice cream. The right amount of aeration and circulation during the churning process is key to developing the right consistency.”

As there is a lot of water in fruit, it is necessary to extract as much water from it as possible before adding it to the ice cream base to create the right amount of flavour.

To do this, Mrs Katich creates all her own syrups, which are then added to the ice cream.

She said in order to keep control of quality, she only sold ice cream from her shop front on West Swan Road.

Kato’s @ 3000 is open from September to May for ice cream sales. It also sells fresh grapes and melons when in season, from January to April.

Mrs Katich said the Swan Valley was an amazing part of WA’s agricultural industry and one she hoped would continue to grow and be supported by both local consumers and overseas visitors.

“Whenever people come through our doors, I always tell them to visit at least two other businesses in our area,” she said.

“The Swan Valley has so much to offer. There are some amazing family businesses here that have been making a living off their land for several generations, and it is right here on the doorstep of Perth.”

Mrs Katich said she was hopeful that the current trend of people taking more interest in where their food was from would help to preserve the Swan Valley as a food bowl.

“Visitors are increasingly interested in learning about the provenance of their food, they are also looking for healthier options that honour the primary producer,” she said.

“We try to show people visiting us who we are. For example, during summer on Sundays we will sometimes have cook-offs making Croatian doughnuts.

“We are not unusual though. I support everyone that is here in the Swan Valley. People really should come and see what the families here are doing, they all work so hard.”

Mrs Katich said the Swan Valley was full of history.

“My father came to Australia in the 1920s from the old country in Croatia,” she said. “My family and Matt’s family were from neighbouring towns in Croatia.”

As a child growing up in the Swan Valley, Mrs Katich and her siblings helped to work the land and run the family business.

“I can remember siphoning wine at 11, which back then no one thought was unusual,” she said. “We would also pick a tonne of wine grapes before starting school each day.”

Looking to the future, Mrs Katich said she had a few more ideas up her sleeve when it came to other ways to diversify their business. However, for now, she was looking forward to showcasing what the region had to offer during the busy summer fruit season.

Kato’s @ 3000 opens October to December on Saturday and Sunday, while from January to March it is open Friday to Sunday.

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