Passionfruit pickers prepare for prime season
THE passionfruits of Coast growers' labour are ready to be picked in what is shaping up to be a busy harvest period.
Glass House Mountains couple Jane and John Richter have grown a 3500-vine enterprise from scratch since buying their Judds Rd property a little more than three years ago.
They knew nothing about growing passionfruit when they moved up from Brisbane but have happily let the purple pouches of flavour change their lives.
Mr Richter was able to give away his former career as a sales manager in the oil and gas industry in 2014 to be full-time on the farm.
Mrs Richter quit her marketing manager job in July to join him.
She said they had both loved seeing their hard work translate into fruit bound for markets.
"It's a very different type of reward to what my husband and I are used to," Mrs Richter said.
"It provides just a fantastic lifestyle for us.
"Both of us really love the lack of politics."
She said a mild winter and good conditions for flowering meant the vines were loaded.
"It (fruit) is coming off the vines in droves and it's absolutely beautiful."
Mrs Richter said they harvested fruit year-round but summer was the busiest period because passionfruit thrived in hot weather.
She hoped to be filling between 300 and 400 boxes a week to send to markets in Brisbane and Sydney.
"We have such a good climate for growing a tropical fruit like this."
Their friends and fellow passionfruit newcomers Anton and Marcia Stretch are also looking forward to a promising harvest at their Beerwah property.
They too left their former careers behind to take up farming.
Mr Stretch was in the air force as well as working for customs and coast watch while Mrs Stretch was a registered nurse, also in the air force.
They considered getting into pineapple growing but after learning more about passionfruit they bought a farm as a going concern.
Mr Stretch said wanted something that suited he and his wife's enthusiasm for growing produce and gardening.
"We learnt from the previous (farm) owners and have had wonderful support from other growers in the area," Mr Stretch said.
He said he spoke weekly with Mr and Mrs Richter.
"We bounce ideas off each other and then go and check them with someone who really knows."
He said conditions had been very dry but that had led to a reduction in other challenges such as fungi on the fruit and vines.
New season fruit started dropping to the ground this week.
Mr Stretch said he got up to 100 cartons a week off the 900 or so vines at his place when production was going well.
Meanwhile, Mrs Richter's tip for an optimal eating experience was to get into passionfruit while it was still hard.
"It's fresh off the vine.
"You can see the skin is nice and firm, nice and shiny and that's absolutely packed with juice.
"By the time it's got very wrinkly, which is when a lot of people think you have to wait to eat a passionfruit, that means that a lot of that juice is already gone because the fruit is dehydrating.
"The flavour will still be really intense (and) really sweet but it just won't be as juicy.
"So you want to eat your passionfruit when they are plump and fresh."