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Byron Shire
December 1, 2021

Picone: psyche of fruit trees

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Entertainment in the Byron shire for the week beginning 1 December, 2021

All your entertainment news in one brilliant place

Who knew that just west of the highway there is a veritable wonderland of exotic and rare fruit trees. 

John Picone was raised on a family farm in Sicily before moving to Australia in 1956. After a life in Sydney and establishing a design studio, he moved with his own family to the Northern Rivers, eventually settling permanently in Tyagarah where he fulfilled his dream to live life as a tropical fruit farmer and recreate his childhood spent amongst an edible paradise. 

John grows 400 varieties of rare fruits that people would often never see. He uses no chemicals or artificial fertilisers and has invested decades in perfecting his trees, ensuring the best health benefits and nutrient density. His species originate from South America, Europe, Asia, India and Mexico, and not surprisingly come into season during the warmer months.

‘Some of the fruits we grow don’t like the wet or humidity, we really push the envelope on what we are able to achieve. I learnt by making mistakes, it really was trial and error. I try to get into the psyche of the tree and just give it what it needs’. 

At the moment John is excited about his Cupuaçu. ‘It is related to the cacao and is native to the Amazon, the seeds can be dried and eaten like almonds, consumed as a drink or eaten, it is sharp, sweet and delicious.’

‘People will come to the stall just to buy my capers, these are from the Mediterranean archipelago, it took me 25 years to work out how to grow them here.

‘I love the markets and talking to customers who visit to discover new flavours. I like finding out how their taste varies, to go along with them on their fruit experience. 

‘People can be used to food from the supermarket, which is irrigated with pesticides, they end up buying an inferior product with no flavour. The fruit has been bouncing on the back of a truck, so they might think, I don’t like that taste, but I like to talk to the customers, to make sure they are eating the fruit at the right stage to get the 100 per cent best experience.

‘We pick it today and sell it tomorrow, that is how you get the best flavour from fruit.’ 

John sourced his seeds through his travels, ‘I found out if you put the seeds in zip lock bags, label them with their botanical name and region then quarantine will be happy’.  He also sources seeds from close contacts in FNQ and the NT and Daley’s Nursery in Kyogle, who he says are really passionate and always looking for new things or to swap cuttings. 

Picone Exotics is at New Brighton Farmers Markets Tuesdays, and Mullumbimby Farmers Markets Fridays, from 7–11am.

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