Nelson’s ‘vegetarian butcher’ Maria Rollin outside her alleyway shop, off Hardy St. Photo: Kate Russell.

Meatless butcher takes on Nelson

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Maria Rollin isn’t your average butcher.

She sells sausages, bacon, ribs and chicken nuggets – but there’s a twist. It’s all made from plants.

Her growing business, debatably known as ‘The Vegetarian Butcher’ is tucked away down a little lane off Hardy St.

And although there’s not much ‘butchering’ going on there, the name is certainly gaining the attention of some of Nelson’s biggest meat eaters.

“Just the name brings people in. ‘What’s a vegetarian butcher?’ they ask,” says Maria.

“Then they try, like what they try and then they buy. Even the most sceptical meat eaters are surprised how much it tastes like meat.”

Maria credits her children for ‘sparking’ the idea of creating faux meat.

“When they were six and seven years old they went on a farm outing where they saw a bit too much. They wanted to stop eating meat, so I started experimenting with different recipes.”

She started selling her products at the Nelson Market last July and then opened her shop in November one day a week on the side of a full-time job, which she has just given up to open more frequently.

Maria wants to show people that it’s not hard to cut back on meat.

“I know some people who think vegetarian cooking is hard, or they don’t know what to cook. But this is an easy way to substitute meat – you can have your normal bangers and mash without any fuss.”

All the products mimic meat, but contain no animal products. Her best seller is a spicy Italian sausage, and she also does oven roasted garlic, chorizo, and porcini and port varieties.

‘Chicken breast’ and nuggets, spicy BBQ ‘ribs’, beetroot and quinoa or spicy chickpea burger patties and smoky maple-infused bacon are also big sellers.

And with no additives, and ingredients such as beetroot powder, coconut oil and seitan – which is essentially just wheat gluten – it’s good for you, too.

“It’s all vegan, all freezable and prices are reasonable – some people tell me that it’s too cheap.”

Maria’s also started supplying several cafes in Nelson and in the future will look at doing internet orders and the Nelson Farmers Market.

“I’m just getting more and more interest, and it’s all been word of mouth.”

The Vegetarian Butcher is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 10:30am – 5pm at 1/106 Hardy St.