John Picone has a special relationship with his fruit trees.
“There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve walked into the orchard and I’ve just had this overwhelming feeling that they’re happy to see me,” he said.
“I talk to them, and I never pick a fruit without thanking them – there’s a real connection.”
John’s passion for growing stems from a childhood in Italy, where he spent many afternoons climbing the fruit trees in his family orchard to get at the fragrant fruit.
He’s recreated this magic in his own orchard at Tyagarah – an edible wonderland containing hundreds of varieties – with an emphasis on the exotic, including wax jambu, abiu, loquats, longan, rollinia, pepper and vanilla.
“I love it,” says John.
“I’ll be in there picking and munching on wax jambu or lychees or whatever’s ripe at the time, or I’ll reach out and grab something and eat it as I’m mowing– I mean where else can you do that? You can’t do that in an office.”
John has been sharing his bounty of delicious fruit with locals at the farmers markets in Byron Shire for the past 19 years and continues to do so each Tuesday at New Brighton and Friday at Mullumbimby Farmers Market.
Here John talks about some of the produce available on his stall now and in the coming weeks:
Jujubes: “The fresh version of Chinese dried date. Wonderful on a cheese platter.”
Emperor lychee: “A bigger-sized with a lot of pulp inside”
Pearl Dragonfruit: “They have a high sugar content, a slightly citrus/lemony tang and they’re very moreish. My favourite dragonfruit.”
Figs: We have more than 20 varieties. They’re on the small side this year because of the dry but they’ve got plenty of flavour. “
Gac: “Google this fruit and you’ll easily find two pages of health benefits. They don’t have much flavour but customers who have had them come back to us and say ‘we don’t care about the flavour, we just love how we fell after we eat them.”
Prickly Pear: “People are going ballistic for the prickly pear this year. It’s a beautiful fruit when it’s peeled and chilled. It’s so refreshing. The seeds turn initially off a lot of people but the idea is just to chew and swallow them – you get the lovely flavour in your mouth of the juice. “
Starfruit, guavas, jackfruit, pomegranate, and persimmons will also be available at John’s stall in coming weeks.