Story & photos by Vivienne Pearson
With spring almost in sight, it’s time to turn your thoughts to luscious fruits. Two people who have exotic fruit firmly in their sights all year round are John and Lyndall Picone.
You might recognise their smiling faces from local farmers markets. If you’ve missed their colourful stall, you can either wait until October (once most fruit starts ripening) or you could visit them at their farm! A tour of Picone Exotics, located near Mullumbimby, will leave your mind blown and your taste buds tingling.
Picone Exotics has grown over the past seven years from being an empty piece of land – albeit it with stunning views – to a picturesque orchard containing small numbers of more than 200 varieties of fruit-bearing plant.
It is not a farming model that lends itself to selling to big restaurants, such as NOMA Australia, who recently approached Picone. John loves the local markets, and especially his regulars who know to come early, and he supplies local restaurants such as Harvest and Fleet. It is a farming model that makes for a great tour. I ended my visit with sticky hands, inspired taste buds and a small bounty of fruit to take home.
I happily lost track of the myriad types of fruit I was seeing and tasting, but was struck by seeing cacao and pepper grow and John tells me these don’t normally grow in this climate. He attributes his success to the rich basalt soil combined with his use of energy within the orchard. ‘One guy called it Intentional Farming, but I don’t have a name for it,’ says John. He simply applies intuitive ideas learned through martial arts and meditation. He only waters when a tree is first planted and uses almost no fertiliser.
Though John’s and Lyndall’s first careers were in graphic design, growing food is firmly in John’s heritage. ‘My father could almost grow veges on concrete,’ says John of his years in suburban Sydney. An early memory, from formative years on the Sicilian Island of Lipari, is of his grandmother yelling at him to get down from the apricot tree.
Though John’s apricot trees are not yet big enough to climb, John is certainly totally at home within his exotic orchard.
Picone Exotics are at New Brighton, Byron and Mullum farmers markets from the first week of October. Tours can be booked by emailing piconeexoti[email protected] or as part of a larger tour via tastebyronbay.com.