Bowl of exotic tropical fruit used for the fruit tasting Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm at Cape Tribulation
Bed and Breakfast accommodation on the edge of the Daintree Rainforest  at Cape Tribulationand white-lipped tree frog
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About Alison and Digby Gotts - Cape Tribulation

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FEBRUARY 2001 NEWSLETTER

First of all - Our current movements - so you can keep track!

As I write this we are back in Samoa, having spent five weeks at home on the farm over Christmas. It is interesting that whenever you are home you long to travel and whenever you are travelling you long for home. Five weeks of manual labour working in the humid tropical summer of northern Queensland trying to bring the farm back under control has made us ready to head back to Samoa for the final 3 month contract, which finishes at the end of April.

We intend to go back to Australia the 'long way round' via Paris and Glasgow, Singapore and Bali - it will probably be the last time we are overseas for some time, so we are making the most of it. The mind boggles what the fruit will be like in the western highlands of Scotland - but we will let you know! We arrive back in Cape Tribulation on the 24 June, ready to begin the fruit tastings on July 1.

Eating our first Mangosteens

I mentioned in the last letter that our Mangosteens had fruited for the first time, 12 years after planting out our first trees, from seeds that we had collected in Bangkok in October 1998. Well the good news is that we did get to taste our first fruit before we departed for Samoa. And of course it tasted fantastic. It was difficult to believe that our dream was actually becoming a reality. Not enough fruit yet for a commercial harvest but probably next year, if all goes well. Farmers should never start counting their mangosteens before they hatch! About 30 trees had fruit - maybe 10 to 50 fruit on each tree.

Picking them is going to be interesting as the branches are so fragile. A fruit farm near us uses small children aged about 8 to climb the trees and pick the fruit - long armed pickers should probably do the job. The trees need to be patrolled every few days, and as they start to change colour from green to pink, they are ready for picking and eating. So we were able to eat at least 30 fruit, and have left the rest to our neighbours.

Marketing our Salaks

For the first time Our Salak crop has been considerable this year. The fruit had been ripening since early December and bunches continued to ripen over the 5 weeks that we were at home. A pick twice a week would yield at least 2 buckets of ripe fruit. Some of the fruit had been hand pollinated and had produced quite good yields, but we also found many bunches which had pollinated themselves and still had produced a good yield. So we are hoping that as the plants become older they will not need to be hand pollinated which is rather time consuming.

The best of the crop we took down to the local fruit shop at Mossman - Yum Yums - who has a good sideline on exotic tropical fruit - and she promoted them to all the chefs from Port Douglas. The owner, Afka tells us that Nautilus, THE posh restaurant in Port Douglas had Salak soup on the menu, and has promised to get us the recipe from the chef. Another posh resort had them on their breakfast fruit platter and apparently they were well received there by guests who had eaten them in Bali and were delighted to be able to eat them again.

The rest of the crop was eaten locally - the fruit are very more-ish and once you overcome the initial surprise that they are dry and crunchy rather than moist and juicy, large amounts can be consumed at a sitting. So we will need to really get organised for the next season and have a marketing plan that we can implement.

Our Bangkok Durians

On that Bangkok trip in 1988 we also collected Durian seed, particularly the variety called Montong - or so we thought! We planted out 50 seedling trees which were so called Montong - of the 50 we planted out we now have about 3 surviving, and 2 of those 3 have produced their first fruit this season. Ten metres up the trees - huge big fat fruit - but they didn't ripen while we were at home.

However our neighbours have been keeping an eye on them with instructions to taste them and see what they actually are. Well the first ones fell last week - and Colin and Dawn our neighbouring durian experts collected them for tasting. Their verdict is that they are NOT Montong - surprise, surprise - but a variety they call Strong Pong - can you believe the name, (they can't be serious - it has to be a joke) and of course they have a really strong smell, so that people walking up their driveway could smell the fruit in their packing shed 50 metres away!But the good news is that the flesh recovery is very high and tastes good and is also quite red in colour.

Samoan News

The rambutan harvest has just started with the fruit appearing in the market again. For many Samoans this is their first experience with the fruit and many find it too sweet. I suspect that this is more a reaction to the strangeness of a new food, when the preference is for the traditional foods. However, for many others the fruit is enjoyed and is sought after for eating and planting. To encourage the latter, the government nursery has dropped the selling price of bud grafted rambutan to about A$1! The fruit itself is selling at around A$4 a kilo, which is still very expensive compared to other fruits at the market.

The UN fruit project team have finally decided which are the best rambutan varieties for distribution in Samoa. These include Lebakbulus, R167, R134, R162, Gulah Batu and Rongrien while some of the no hopers include Jit Lee, Selankeng, R3, R7 and R9. It remains now to complete the fruit fly host status testing on the best varieties before we can establish a protocol for exporting the fruit initially to NZ.

Fruit appearing in large numbers in the local market include a native passionfruit often harvested from the forest. Orange in colour with a soft thick shell, I have yet to find out the proper name for it. The taste is very sweet, but with virtually no acid. I find the flavour objectionably musty, but Alison enjoys them and even puts them on her cereal for breakfast.

The mango season has now finished, such as it was. The trees grow well here but the high levels of nitrogen, the frequent rains and the high humidity make this country a less than ideal location for getting them to fruit. One of my challenges is to develop a horticultural practice that will allow the many mangoes to produce fruit. The key will lie in pruning after harvest to maintain an open and low structure, minimizing fungal attack and encouraging new leaf growth, which will delay flowering until the drier season. The sun and rain tend to push the trees into flowering at any time, when rapid fungal growth wipes out the flowers or young fruit. Half the government research farm mango trees have now been decimated, pruned back to open vase shaped skeletons. The other half will have their centres pruned out, leaving any other cut backs until next season. Hopefully they will be able to show some more fruit next season. The densely planted mango groves, totalling about 400 mature trees had about 10 Kg of fruit total, so it is unlikely they can do any worse!

That's about all the news for now

Alison and Digby

 

 

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Bed and Breakfast accommodation on an exotic tropical fruit orchard at Cape Tribulation in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest
Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm, Lot 5 Nicole Drive, Cape Tribulation, Queensland, 4873, Australia - Tel: 0740 980057 - Fax: 0740 980067
info@capetrib.com.au.

Last updated December 19, 2013