Gourmet fruit is now being farmed in the region
HAVING always worked and lived on the land, third-generation cane farmer Mark Blair's retirement plan doesn't veer far from what he knows.
After a century of growing cane, the family farm now has a new look as 700 finger lime plants burgeon alongside the cane fields.
Situated in Myrtlevale, just minutes north of Proserpine, Mr Blair's semi-retirement project Myrtlevale Fingerlimes is the first of its kind in the Whitsundays.
"I've always been interested in Australian native plants and I've always been involved with farming and growing plants, so it was just about finding the right native plant that was commercially viable as well," Mr Blair said.
"I haven't come across a native plant as diverse as the finger lime - it can be used in any kind of food, from sweet and desserts, to fish and salads and even used in drinks."
The gourmet citrus fruit is enjoyed by cutting open the skin, which then oozes tiny coloured, caviar-like vesicles.
After first launching in 2017, Mr Blair said he was expecting a crop of 500kg during the next fruiting season, between January and July 2020.
That's up from 40kg this year.
After planting his finger lime varieties grafted to lemon roots, Mr Blair has managed to wipe years off the growing process.
Once fully grown, after about four years, a finger lime plant can produce up to 20kg of fruit each year.
"They usually grow in the rainforest of the Queensland and NSW border but growing them up has been a pretty smooth operation," Mr Blair said.
"The dry weather here hasn't caused too much stress, they're use to tropical weather and the heat."
After first starting with five different varieties, Mr Blair has narrowed his crop down to three and now produces the Byron Sunrise, Red Champagne and Chartreuse varieties, all providing a different colour and change in flavour.
Ahead of his first major yield, Mr Blair has sought to promote local produce by supplying to restaurants throughout the Whitsunday islands and mainland.
With a fresh shelf life of about one week, Mr Blair has plans to offer a frozen product consisting of the pre-prepared caviar balls, with the capacity to be sold anywhere across Australia.
Myrtlevale Fingerlimes can be found at www.myrtlevalefingerlimes.com.au or through Mr Blair on 0429 629 337.