Having lived and work in New Zealand for many a year, there was one particular fruit that I miss more than anything now my gum boots trudge through Queensland. I would describe it when sliced down the middle as the most beautifully looking fruit on the planet (that being its internal organs). On the outside, its oval, light green and in truth looks like an over indulged plum, but the feijoa has the internal looks and flavour that redefine originality and so off I went in search of a local grower here in Queensland.
Set within 11 acres of my local Eumundi hinterland are seven hundred trees that you may struggle to recognise. They are not your typical fruit tree in Queensland. Then again, Peter and Sally are not your typical farmers in these parts as they are organic growers of the tropical fruit, feijoa, and proud owners of Hinterland Feijoas.
The feijoa is a rare Queensland fruit and a delightfully tasty one that the couple from Belli Park decided to grow to bring a new crop to the region and a new challenge to their farming lives. Now some four years into the exciting enterprise, their business is now a full time job for them both, producing fruit that is principally sold to the local community as fruit, jams, chutneys and pulp. Their hand-made jams andchutney lines are unique recipes created by local chef Peter Wolfe, of Cedar Creek Farm. Classic feijoa jam, delicious feijoa and boysenberry jelly, spicy cured feijoa chutney, tangy feijoa and ginger jam, and a world first feijoa and rosella jam are but a few of their products.
Growing feijoas in Queensland is an immense challenge due to the humidity, the fruit fly pest, poor soil nutrition and the huge variations in seasonal rainfall making the couple’s achievement in growing the fruit successfully that much the greater. Added to that is their desire to make the farm organic. No easy task for a crop and climate conducive to adversity.
Following a busy harvest season with all the fruit being handpicked, and all of it sold, their time is currently spent shaping and pruning the trees. Each tree can take up to an hour to trim and prune to shape. Hours of pruning is just a small part of their labour required to grow this fruit, and in turn this business, with such rewards.
I wrote this blog as I always admire those that test to the extreme the challenges that placing a round plant in a square hole can bring. If it was easy, everyone would be growing it right!!. I hope to keep in touch over the coming seasons to see how they come to deal with the inevitable challenges that growing such a plant will no doubt produce. They have already lost many plants upon discovery of a slippery wave of clay through their fields of relatively free draining sandy loam. The summer rains brought these layers to saturation point and feijoas are not keen on dipping toes for too long in moisture. Lesson one. Lesson two was the dreaded fruit fly and the couple have started on a series of netting the rows to reduce the fruit fly’s constant ability to wreck fruit in Queensland,,.. but don’t get me started on the Queensland fruit fly.
Although the couple will admit its early days in the growth of the project and their plans, the learning curve for them both is a steep one but one that I for one hope they can climb. It’s a fruit worthy of its place in our hills and in our hearts and if Max Schubert thought he had found the perfect glass of wine, he may not have discovered the flavour depths of the feijoa.