To enjoy the flavour of our tropical fruits, it is important to pick at the right time. These fruits are so delicious it seems sinful to glorify them with cream and pastry etc. Unfortunately, lots of the rare fruit sold in shops lack flavour, so hopefully members will grow those they like and pick when mature. Tree-ripened fruit is lovely in the winter, but in the summer, birds, bats and insects cause damage galore.

1. Black Sapote (chocolate pudding fruit)
Like many fruits, the size varies but usually the fruits on any one tree are about the same size. The main crop ripens in the cooler months, but with plenty of moisture, you can expect two crops a year. This is a green fruit but the green turns to a pale green towards maturity. At the apex of the fruit (where attached to the tree), is a circular, frilled calyx. Pick the fruit when the calyx curves upwards and the colour is pale green. Store the fruit carefully and check daily for softness. This fruit can soften completely over night. When soft, place in the refrigerator to delay ripening - but not for a long period.

2. Soursop
A truly delicious fruit. This is also a green fruit which lightens to pale green on maturity. The fruit skin has raised, soft spines. The fruit is ready to be picked when these subside on maturity. The fruit, when picked, will not be soft but will soften ready for eating in a day or so depending on the warmth of the weather. If picked too soon, the flavour is bitter. Soursop usually fruit in early spring in Kuranda but with a dry winter, mine fruited January and February. We have had lots of rain in this time and I do not irrigate. If you rub the pulp through a metal colander, the extracted juice is delicious for drinks or ice cream.

3. Monstera deliciosa
A summer green fruit which enjoys moisture. The flowers develop all through summer and when the cool weather comes, the immature fruit ceases to grow in size. In the tropics, protected by the plant leaves, the fruit develops no more until October or November. It will then continue its growth. Depending on fertility and moisture, the fruits here ripen from Christmas to late March. When the fruit is mature to pick, it bends a little and will snap off easily. Where the fruit is attached to the stem, you must see approximately an inch of yellowing. If kept in the refrigerator it will not ripen and can be stored for a month. To ripen the fruit, wrap it in paper, or if you have ants, stand the small end of the fruit in water and cover the fruits with a plastic bag. Every day about an inch of the green bumpy skin will drop off into the water, then with a fork remove the delicious pulp. This will be attached to a core, in which case you may core and compost it.

It is also known as a Fruit Salad plant. The leaves are lovely to look at. They are quite often used in large floral arrangements. As new leaves grow yearly in the summer, the plants drop old brown ones. These leaves provide mulch for this remarkable plant.

The ripened pulp is delicious made into jams and chutneys. My favourite recipe is to eat the pulp mashed up with a little relish or mayonnaise and eat it on lettuce or paw paw.

4. Carambolas (Five corner fruit)
When to pick depends on the variety. All of them must be well filled-out. This happens quickly in summer when they ripen. Fruit fly love them, so pick as soon as possible (unless you have them netted). Some varieties always remain green but turn a light green; some turn yellow. It is best to pick before they are fully matured and let them ripen for a few days under cover. If your tree has a big crop, pick off all immature fruit for compost. It is like thinning grapes. It is important to pick up all the fruit that drops and obviously contains fruit flies. If you thin the fruit, it makes less dropped fruit.

5. Abiu
This fruit is yellow when ripe. You can twist it off its stem, leaving no stalk and no hole in the fruit. In the summer, you can pick the fruit with about an inch of green round the top and let it fully ripen indoors. This avoids some insect damage. In winter, leave the fruit till fully yellow. Usually the abiu has two crops a year; when, depends on the rains.

The black sapote also usually bears two crops a year and so does the carambola, but the summer crop is the biggest.

6. Bunchosia
Bunchosia is a small attractive tree that fruits in 2½ years from seed. White flowers produce hundreds of small oblong fruit about an inch or so long. From green, the fruit turns yellow, then orange and finally soft, mushy and red. The best time to pick is when it is orange coloured. The fruit tastes and is hard like a carrot. The skin and seeds may be eaten. The fruit should be picked before the flesh goes mushy. No pests attack the fruit until it becomes mushy, and then its usually only birds. A good fruit tree for children with strong teeth!

Marjorie Spear, Harmony Farm

DATE: March 1993

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