Dragon fruit farmers Bruce and Carol Wallace have been growing the vibrant tropical fruit for 15 years and say it keeps growing in popularity year-on-year.
Bruce was originally a sugar cane farmer and during the mid-2000s he decided it was time to try growing something new and more viable, and now he is reaping the benefits of the unusual fruit.
“Some things in life give you joy,” Bruce said softly.
“And I tell you, walking through the dragon fruit paddocks early in the morning when there are nice flowers with a nice aroma – well it just makes my old heart jump a bit.”
Dragon fruit comes in a variety of different succulent species indigenous to the Americas, and three of these species are grown at Bruce and Carol’s Prickle Patch Dragon Fruit Farm on Backspringfield Road.
Bruce said the fruit may have become more popular in recent years, but he still came across many people who didn’t know what a strangely-shaped dragon fruit was.
“We have been providing Tina from Tinaberries our dragon fruit for her new ice cream flavour,” Bruce said.
“I went out there the other day with a box of dragon fruit, and as I arrived saw a person licking one of the dragon fruit ice creams Tina makes, and they said to me ‘what is that’ as they pointed to the dragon fruit, while eating a dragon fruit ice cream!
“So, there are definitely a lot of people who don’t know what it is.”
He said when he and Carol first decided to turn some of their sugar cane farm in to a dragon fruit paradise it was a “niche market” and there were only a few other growers around the Bundaberg Region.
But now with the help of products such as Tinaberries ice cream, or the dragon fruit wine made by Ohana Winery, he said the fruit had become increasingly popular.
Bruce’s first encounter with a dragon fruit
“It was donkey’s years ago when I first saw a dragon fruit,” Bruce said.
“I was up in the Gulf country wondering around an abandoned camp site, when I saw them growing up a tree. I thought to myself ‘what on earth is that?', and it wasn’t until years later I found out and now I harvest them every year.”
Bruce and Carol’s Prickle Patch Dragon Fruit Farm is set on 1.6Ha and it has about 1300 fruit positions, bearing red, white and yellow varieties of the temperamental fruit.
Bruce describes the pollination process as a one-day wonder, when all of the flowers open during the night and it’s the early morning when the bees set to work on pollination.
“They are breeding plants, and they do most of their breeding and living during the night,” he said.
“They have a large flower that starts to swell around 6 pm of an evening, and by 8 or 9 pm they are wide open and do the exchange, then by 10 am the next day they are just a has been.
“It’s a real experience to know what goes on at the farm. We often have groups come out, and of course there is always something to do.”
He said the climate in the Bundaberg Region gave the plants the best chance at producing a high yield of fruit each year.
“They like a fair drink, as the fruit is virtually water,” Bruce said.
“That’s why the region is ideal for growing them, well the region is ideal for growing most crops actually!”
Carol said there were many ways to enjoy eating dragon fruit, but without a doubt the couple’s favourite was to eat it chilled with a spoon or added to some ice cream.
To find out more about Bruce and Carol’s Prickle Patch Dragon Fruit Farm click here.
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