A practical and informative look at fruits for Central Queensland
Common name Barbados cherry, the Acerola is a large fast growing shrub, native to Mexico that grows to around 4 metres but is usually pruned and kept smaller. They can be deciduous in a dry climate and are sensitive to frosts. Hardy to a range of different soil types, however water logging of the roots will kill the tree. With regular irrigation the acerola can flower and produce berries year round. The fruit is bright red and cherry like, 1 to 2cm in diameter. When ripe they are juicy and slightly tart. It has many medicinal uses and in Brazil it is used as an anti-inflammatory, as well as having benefits for the liver, heart and high cholesterol. It has up to 9 times the amount of vitamin c of an orange, making it one of the richest known sources of vitamin C.
Avocado – Persea Americana
The avocado is a medium tree native to Mexico and Central America. Often found in Mexican cooking, it is the basis for side dishes such as guacamole. Great as a substitute for butter on a sandwich. Growing best in tropical and subtropical environments, young trees can be susceptible to frosts and sunburn. Most trees are bought as grafted varieties. Fertile, well-drained soil is essential as the tree will die if the roots are waterlogged for more than 40 hours. The trees come in A and B varieties. One tree alone will still fruit and is adequate for a home garden; however, one of each variety within a reasonable distance of each other is best for a bumper crop.
The Black Sapote is otherwise known as the chocolate pudding fruit! When ripe the fruit has the taste, looks and consistency of chocolate mousse. An attractive medium-sized tree with glossy foliage, this tropical fruit tree is an ideal fast-growing ornamental tree with delicious fruit. The fruit is usually picked when the calyx rises off the surface of the fruit and left to go soft in your fruit bowl. It is fully ripe when it goes squidgy soft and wrinkly. Delicious used as a chocolate substitute in puddings or shakes or eaten fresh. Low in fat and contains about 4 times the amount of vitamin c as an orange.
Blueberries are a small shrub in the same family as azaleas. Most people don’t recognise it as being a plant suitable for our climates but it will grow and fruit in Queensland. Grow them in a free-draining, enriched, acidic soil. They enjoy regular watering as they have surface-feeding roots. They will also do well grown in a pot. They are deciduous and will flower and fruit after the leaves drop. The fruit will go a dark blue-black colour but will take a few extra days after full colour to reach full sweetness. Best eaten straight from the bush; however, they will freeze well and it is said they won’t lose their vitamin or anti-oxidant levels for a long time after freezing!
The Carambola is also known as star fruit for its cross-sectional resemblance to a five-pointed star. Originally native to Sri Lanka it is now very popular and established throughout Asia. It is a smaller tree, producing large quantities of fruit, ideal for the backyard and well suited to a sub-tropical environment. It is not tolerant of frosts, but is good in most soil types as long as they are well-drained. Plant in full sun in a place a little protected from harsh winds. The fruit can be picked when fully yellow but may need a little extra time to ripen in your fruit bowl. The taste is sweet and juicy, kind of similar to a mix of apple and grape. The whole fruit can be eaten and is great for juicing or garnishing salads with its unique shape.
The alternative to chocolate! Carob is a delicious, naturally sweet, low fat food that grows as a pod on a medium to large tree. Native to the Mediterranean, it is a hardy ornamental tree that will grow in poor soils and will also act as a soil improver. Most varieties available now are bi-sexual so only one plant is needed. Great as a shade tree for the backyard that additionally is edible. To process, boil the pods to soften and blend into a powder. Also good as a stock fodder, cattle, sheep and goats will munch away happily at it.
Cashew Nut Tree
The cashew tree is a tropical tree that grows to about 6m and can be almost as wide. It is hardy and fast growing. Often an odd-shaped tree, it is native to Brazil and enjoys sandy soils in a tropical environment. Usually grown for the nut, it also contains another edible part called the cashew apple. The cashew apple is a pear-shaped fruit, juicy, sweet and astringent. It has a refreshing tropical taste. The actual nut is very difficult to extract. Between the outer shell and inner shell is a potent acid that is allergenic and caustic. Therefore commercial cashew crops are usually sent overseas to be processed. Roasting the cashews burns up the toxins but must be done outdoors as the smoke is also toxic.
Given how many people enjoy coffee these days, it is surprising how few people have tried planting these easy to grow bushes. The coffee bush is a small 1 to 2-metre plant with fragrant white flowers and clusters of red beans. This is an understorey plant and therefore prefers a sheltered, semi-shaded position. They are surface feeders and therefore like to be well mulched and irrigated, particularly in the growing season. The coffee berries are ready to be harvested when they go a deep red/purple. Clean the flesh off the berry and you will expose the two beans inside a silvery casing. Those are your coffee beans! There is a bit of a process involved in getting them ready for the coffee pot, but the rewards will be well worth it for the coffee lovers!
The Custard Apple is a small to medium deciduous tree with a spreading habit native to the West Indies. Suited to tropical regions, it will struggle in a colder climate area. Prefers deep rich soil with plenty of moisture but good drainage. The fruit is plentiful and can be picked when it loses all traces of green from its skin and is ready to eat when soft. The creamy white flesh is dotted with seeds but is delicious eaten fresh or blended into shakes and juices.
Eugenia dombeyi – Grumichama
The grumichama is considered the tropical version of the cherry. A small tree, native to South America, it can grow up to 3 or 4 metres but can be pruned and hedged quite easily. Highly ornamental it is the perfect backyard tree for this region. The purplish-black fruit is around 2cm in diameter with a delicious white flesh, tasty and sweet. It is hardy to most conditions, but a full sun position with well-drained soil is best. It also needs to be protected from frosts while young. Although the tree will continue to look and grow fine in times of drought, additional watering may be necessary for a good, sweet crop of berries.
The Feijoa is an attractive shrub that can reach 4 to 5 metres, native to the cooler parts of Brazil and Argentina. In our region, it grows well as an ornamental shrub in most soils but needs a cool winter to set fruit. Therefore it can be hit and miss as to whether you will get fruit on it in our climate. Two plants are needed for pollination. They are slightly salt-tolerant and can be grown as a hedge. The fruit (if you’re lucky enough to get some) emits a strong long-lasting perfume and is sweet, tasting of a mix of pineapple and guava.
Grapefruits are a large sour to semi-sweet fruit, excellent for juicing with a variety of different coloured and tasting fleshes. Rich in vitamin c and antioxidants, it is one of the best fruits to eat during winter to stave off the flu. The red-fleshed varieties are popular and have a slightly sweeter flavour than the traditional varieties such as Wheeny and Marsh. Ideal for a sub-tropical environment, Grapefruit enjoy a full sun position with well-drained soil.
The Guava tree is a medium sized attractive ornamental tree thriving in tropical climates. Frost tender, particularly when young. They handle most soils but like good drainage and a full sun position. The fruit is roughly the size of a large apple and is sweet, juicy though quite seedy. Excellent used as a juice, however they should be fully ripe. The cherry and strawberry guavas are smaller trees with smaller, sweeter fruit that make a good alternative to a small backyard.
The three most common varieties of lemon are the Eureka, Lisbon and Meyer. The Eureka is particularly suited to this area and has fruit on it most of the year. They have few seeds and are relatively free of thorns, growing to around 4m tall. The Meyer and Lisbon varieties are more common in cooler areas. The Meyer lemon is a smaller tree, to about 2m and is sweeter to eat, however the zest of the skin is inferior to other varieties. It is a good choice for keeping in a pot. Try warm lemon water first thing in the mornings to help alkalise the body.
Two main varieties. The Tahitian and the Kaffir. The Tahitian lime is a seedless variety used for its juice, best picked slightly green for the full lime taste. Grows 3 to 4 metres. Try squeezing lime juice over a fruit salad or dessert to enhance the taste! The Kaffir limes are grown to be used in cooking. The leaves are used in Thai cooking and the grated zest has an excellent flavour. The juice itself is not used. An Australian native lime called the finger lime is now becoming popular as well. Shaped like a finger, the skin is peeled away and the flesh consists of little balls, looking a little like caviar that pop in your mouth to give a delicious lime flavour.
The Loquat is a medium tree native to China. It is often grown for ornamental purposes as it is an attractive tree with large glossy leaves with a yellow or orange fruit. It is hardy, drought tolerant and grows in a wide range of climates. It does prefer a well-drained, rich soil and has a shallow root system so feeds close to the surface. Though drought tolerant, adequate watering will be necessary for good fruit set. The fruit is sweet and slightly acidic, around 4cm in diameter and somewhat similar to guava and passionfruit in taste. Can be susceptible to fruit fly.
The Lychee tree is a highly ornamental, medium sized, round tree native to Southern China. One tree has both male and female flowers so will bear fruit. It is fairly slow growing and will take a while before it starts to bear fruit. It does well in our region as it enjoys a cool but not cold dry winter, but may need additional watering during fruit set if there is a dry spring. Known for its unique delicious fruit, which is ripe when fully coloured and soft, is best eaten fresh. The outer skin of the fruit is rough and contains a large seed around. Be warned though that the birds and bats will love your fruit as much as you, therefore many people choose to net their tree. It’s often pruned to make for easy pickings however it also makes an attractive back yard shade tree.
The Macadamia nut is one of the few commercially grown Australian native foods grown and eaten across the world. Native to Northern NSW and southern Queensland the Macadamia tree can grow up to about 10m tall and almost as wide. Attractive and hardy, the tree is suited to a frost free climate with abundant rainfall. Tolerable of a wide range of soils, however they do not like salt in the water or soil. The nuts have an outer and inner shell. The outer shell splits open when ripe and will fall to the ground. Simply picking the nuts off the ground is the best way to harvest. The hard inner shell will then need to be broken (watch your fingers) in order to eat the delicious nut. Try fresh, roasted and salted or honey roasted!
Mandarins are the ultimate easy to grow, and easy to eat fruit for the back yard grower, the Emperor and the Imperial being the most common varieties. The Emperor is a larger fruit with an easy to peel puffy skin, tending to stay on the tree for a long time. The Imperial is a smaller, easy peeling variety with an excellent flavour. Water well through the fruit growing period to ensure full, sweet crop.
Here in Queensland, we always know when it’s Christmas time because the mango trees are out in fruit! What an awesome present. Sometimes called the king of fruits, it’s hard to resist the succulent, sweet, tangy flesh on a hot summer’s day. Easy and fast growing, mangoes will thrive in a full sun well drained position. Prone to anthracnose, a fungus that is especially prevalent if it rains while the bud and fruit is just beginning to form. Potash before fruit set can be helpful or alternatively spray the buds with a copper based fungicide. There are several delicious varieties but it is hard to go past what is known locally as the Bowen mango, or Kensington pride. They can grow to about 8m but can be pruned regularly to make for easy pickings. Try to avoid getting sap on the skin, if left it can burn and cause dermatitis.
Miracle Berry, Synsepalumdulcificum
Another very unique plant is aptly named the Miracle berry. It is called so because after eating one of the berries, a sour fruit such as a lemon will taste sweeter than an orange! The berry itself is mildly sweet and quite tasty but it is usually for the after effects that it is used. The effects can last up to around half an hour, after which the saliva has mostly washed away the molecules (called miraculin) that causes the effect. The plant is a dense shrub that grows to around 2 metres. It likes a slightly acidic soil, in a semi shaded, frost free environment. The berry is red and up to about 2cm in length with a large seed inside. Trials have been done to see if it can be used as a sweetener and alternative for diabetics!
The Monstera, often called the fruit salad plant, is quite a unique fruiting plant. Native to the tropical rainforests of Mexico, it has large heart-shaped glossy leaves and requires a fairly high humidity and shaded area to grow. Very frost-sensitive. It has aerial roots and will climb up a fence or tree if given the opportunity. It is often used as an ornamental indoor plant but is unlikely to fruit indoors. The fruit is up to about 30 cm long, and shaped like a cob of corn. It will slowly start to change colour as it ripens and the scaly skin will fall away from one end. A small portion will ripen each day, moving down the length of the fruit. Roughly 5 to 7 cm will ripen a day, so it is ideal to leave in your lunch box over a few days. Unripe flesh can irritate the mouth and is astringent. The reason it is called the fruit salad plant is because the ripe flesh taste likes a mix of other fruits. Some say pineapple and banana, others kiwi fruit and others jackfruit! Whatever it tastes like to you I’m sure you will think it unique and delicious!
The mulberry is a fast growing deciduous tree that can reach up to 10m with a delicious and sweet fruit. Dwarf varieties are available. Coming in both the white (Morusalba) and black (Morusnigra) fruiting varieties the mulberry is best eaten straight from the tree. The white mulberry cultivar is white when ripe and has a milder flavour than the black. Pick fruit when fully ripe, as it does not ripen off the tree. Just be aware that the juice of the black mulberry does stain clothes, skin and concrete! The leaves, particularly those of the white mulberry are a great source of food for silk worms. Plant in a sunny well-drained position.
The seedless Valencia is a good variety to grow in this area. It is a late season fruit that is sweet and excellent for juicing. The juice does not go off or sour and is the the orange used for almost all of the world’s orange juices. Hardy and fast growing. For eating fruit straight off the tree the Washington navel is the premium variety. It is an early season variety producing super sweet, good eating fruit. Be aware though that the Navel is more susceptible to disease and produces less fruit than the Valencia.
Most people in Queensland have probably come across a passionfruit vine in their life at some stage. A strong, hardy, vigorous grower almost impossible to kill, it is the ideal fruit for those looking for a tasty climber in our climate. Grow it up a trellis or along a fence for some privacy. The tendrils are strong and given the chance it will get up into the canopies of the trees surrounding it. They are fairly hungry and thirsty so for good growth and fruit set, feed and water well. Panama Red and Panama gold are two grafted varieties that are particularly tasty and hardy. Most vines will start to fruit by about 18 months and ripe fruit will simply fall to the ground or can be picked when they start to change colour and soften.
Paw Paws, also known as papaya, are a fast growing, crowning tree that can fruit in the first year! Native to Central America, they are a great backyard plant because of their small size, attractiveness and prolific fruiting. They need a warm climate and will die if exposed to a frost. In the proper conditions they will fruit year round and can produce up to 30kg of fruit a season. You will need a male and female if you are growing from seed, but most of the plants available at the nursery are bi-sexual, meaning you only need to plant one tree. The two different varieties common here are the yellow fleshed and the red fleshed variety. Both are delicious but the red fleshed one is a little sweeter and usually preferred by those new to trying the fruit. Try squeezing some lime juice on the flesh before eating for a taste sensation!
The Pecan is a deciduous nut tree native to North America. It can grow into a very large tree and is very long lived, however it doesn’t often grow to full size around here. Self-pollinated trees are available, however having two trees will usually give a bigger crop and possible increased kernel size. The timber is also used for furniture making and as a fuel for smoking meats. The outer shell of the nut will split off as it comes to maturity and the inner shell is relatively easy to break into. Easiest practice is to just pick them off the ground. The nut is tasty straight from the shell as a snack or is very popular in sweet desserts. Think pecan pie!
Although raspberries are usually known for growing in the cooler regions of Australia, they will grow here. And with the price of a fresh punnet bought from the store it’s just as well! And once you’ve tasted fresh it will be hard to go back to frozen mush! Raspberries grow on canes reaching up to about 2m high. Best planted in well drained, rich soil up against a fence or trellis for support. A sheltered cool position would be ideal. The berries grow on the previous year’s canes which should be pruned off after fruiting at ground level so that this year’s canes can thrive. The fruit will come on in late summer and autumn so winter is the ideal time to prune back.
Tropical Peach and Nectarine
Although stone fruit is generally thought of as a cool climate fruit, there are now varieties available that can be grown here in sunny, humid Queensland. These are low chill varieties that will still set fruit in our milder winters. Both the peach and nectarine are deciduous and you will get a spectacular display of flowers on your tree after all of the leaves have dropped off. The fruit can be a little susceptible to fruit fly and other bugs so you may potentially need to net your crop. Both are attractive trees, and the nectarine has a vibrant red leaf colour. Dwarf varieties are usually available, and make good pot culture. Fruit quality is excellent.
Author: Morgan Ells 2015
Copyright Tanby Garden Centre