Cape Trib’s mangosteen harvesting treat



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Jason Crowe picking purple mangosteens on the orchard. Image: Supplied.

In a quiet corner of Cape Tribulation, the harvest by hand of the world’s most delicious fruits is just getting started.

Wildwood, an orchard and accommodation set in 15 acres of World Heritage rainforest, is home to 450 purple mangosteen trees along with the region’s most diverse collection of rare and exotic fruit trees.

Owners Liz and Chris Hirst expect the latest crop to yield up to two tonnes, or 20,000 fruit, of ‘the queen of fruit’; their 2017 harvest saw a whopping seven tonnes transported to Sydney’s fresh food markets as well being sold locally.

“We have been continually amazed by the rare fruits since we took over Wildwood and the tropical fruit farm in 2014,” said Liz.

“Most of the varieties come from the Amazon, South East Asia, India and the Caribbean, many of which I had never tasted before coming here, like jaboticaba, miracle fruit, soursop and black sapote (chocolate pudding fruit), though my favourite is still the mangosteen."

Originally from south-east Asia, purple mangosteens (garcinia mangostana) are a rare find these days in Australia's fruit markets and produce aisles: the country only produces some 200 tonnes a year, with the season usually running from November to March.

Mangosteen trees take up to 10 years to bear fruit, making their leathery-skinned produce even more precious; just peel away the purple skin to enjoy the firm and juicy white flesh inside.

Known as a superfood, the fruit contains powerful antioxidants called xanthones and has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that make it a "valuable source(s) for developing new drugs to treat chronic and degenerative diseases".

The 800-plus exotic fruit trees of 50 different species at Wildwood have all been selected for their flavour and grown from seed, meaning even more-familiar fayre like papaya or star fruit has a more delicate, sweet flavour.

Other delectable produce includes jack fruit, the largest fruit in the world which can grow to weigh up to 25kg at the orchard, and the mamey sapote from Central America, with a taste like a peach crossed with a papaya.

The orchard was established in the 1980s on the principles of permaculture, a system continued by Liz and Chris’ orchard manager Jason Crowe, which mimics the rainforest by providing a supply of nutrients from decomposing vegetation.

“Our predecessors spent a decade collecting seeds from around the world and planting hundreds of fruit trees to establish the fruit farm.

“The purple mangosteens are our pride and joy; having just tasted the first one, we can confirm it’s going to be a great season,” said Liz.

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