The story of the Tamborine Dragonfruit Farm is a truly international affair.
John and June Baker moved to Australia from London 40 years ago and now make their living growing a fruit that hails from the cactus family and is native to Mexico and South America.
Since arriving to Australia the couple turned their hand to an assortment of jobs – housepainter, fish shop owners, sellers of cultural carvings.
When they moved to Nanango June says they were looking for something to really sink their teeth into but could never have imagined it would lead them to farming.
Their son Scott first suggested they consider growing dragonfruit on their five-acres. That was 14 years ago. Since then they’ve become experts in all things dragonfruit and moved their operation to Tamborine five years ago.
Between January and June they give tours of their farm, sell fruit, cuttings, plants and jam from a farm shop.
“My sister lives in Italy and when we visited her there we had seen that they grow food on every single bit of dirt,” explains June.
“We weren’t keen gardeners but thought we’d give it a try. We found a lot of the fruit we bought from the shops was tasteless.
“Dragonfruit doesn’t need a lot of water and it doesn’t need a lot of land. We have 1000 trees per acre. They grow up an pole and hang down.”
Dragonfruit is known in central and south America as the Pitaya and is one of the most widely distributed members of the cacataceae family. The fruit’s flesh can be white, red or magenta, depending on the variety.
June says the red fleshed varieties contain lycopene, which is said to be a natural antioxidant with benefits for cancer, heart disease and blood pressure.
Over the years June has experimented with varieties and has cross-pollinated fruit to create new flavours and colours.
“It’s been a lot of work,” she says.
“From when you cross pollinate to get fruit you’re looking at five years.
“I crossed a cactus with a dragonfruit and it tastes like rosewater.
“They’re a tropical fruit vine. I started with the ones that already grew in Australia but they didn’t taste nice so we started cross pollinating. I crossed a yellow with a red. Every year I get a new variety come through. ”
Between January and June the family opens their farm gate to the public, selling fruit, cuttings, plants and jams and sharing their knowledge of this exotic fruit.
June says the fruit is so addictive that her regular customers come knocking well before the season starts, asking, “ÉHave you got fruit, have you got fruit?’
“We get buses from Caloundra, then those people tell others,” says June.
“Drop in and I will tell you all about the dragonfruit.”