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13 November, 2020

Chefs go troppo for our fruit

Chefs at trendy fine dining restaurants in Australia’s capital cities are going troppo for the rare and exotic ultra-tropical fruits grown by the Salleras family in Mission Beach, and it has won them a national award.

By Tanya Murphy

A chef from the Sunshine Coast nominated the family-owned business “Fruit Forest Farm” in the Delicious Harvery Norman Produce awards, and they won the top gong after entering a box of fruits including abiu, jackfruit, rambutans, black sapote, breadfruit and durian.

The award recognises new, innovative, and consistently outstanding Australian ingredients grown with dedication, passion, knowledge, and regard for the environment.

“We’ve never applied for any competitions before, so it’s a pretty big deal to win, over 20 other finalists, on our first time being nominated,” said Peter Salleras.

“Unlike bananas and mangoes which can be grown in subtropical climates as far south as Sydney, there are few places in Australia where ultra-tropical fruits like these can be grown, and very special conditions and care are required in growing them, caring for them and picking them at the right time to preserve the flavours and textures.”

The Salleras’ property includes 160 acres of rainforest-covered mountain, which provides natural spring water, encourages pollinators and creates a micro-climate perfect for growing the fruit, which is farmed on about 10 acres around the foot of the mountain.

Judge and celebrity chef Neil Perry said the resulting taste was amazing.

“Tasting them, I can honestly say I was transported back to Thailand. There’s such a sweetness and concentration of flavour that is rare with these fruits in Australia,” he said.

Chefs and foodies alike are going nuts over the exotic recipes that can be created from these fruits, with celebrity chef Danielle Alvarez sharing a mouth-watering recipe for Black Sapote Molasses and Ginger Cake on the “deliciousaus” Instagram page recently.

Mr Salleras said the demand for ultra-tropical fruits was growing.

“Avocadoes were considered new and exotic about 40 years ago and now they’re huge, and some of these other ultra-tropical fruits are becoming much more popular now too,” he said.

“There’s a massive demand for our stuff - it’s all sold before it even flowers. It all goes to the capital cities where fine dining is fashionable - but we are starting to get more interest from local restaurants.”

Last year the farm also won runner up at the Queensland Landcare awards for its environmentally friendly land management practices.

Peter and Alison, who are third-generation local farmers, started the farm in 1983 and said they absolutely loved working on the farm with their daughter Skye Orsmond, son-in-law Warren Orsmond, grandson Max Orsmond (age two) and up to 10 staff.

“People said we were crazy to start a fruit farm because everyone around here grows cane, bananas, or cattle, but we’ve never looked back,” said Mr Salleras.

“For us quality comes first and just like the biodiverse rainforest that surrounds our farm, we grow a huge diversity of different things rather than growing a huge area of one thing.

“Variety is the spice of life and we’re always experimenting with new things because it keeps it interesting for us. It also means if one fruit has a bad season we always have something else.”

The farm offers tours will reopen in April 2021. Tours include tractor ride around the farm, cassowary spotting, cultural history and bush tucker, tasting up to 30 different fruits picked directly from the tree, and tasting of recipes, such as black sapote mousse prepared by Mrs Salleras.

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