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Slow quandong harvest in western New South Wales — drought and heavy rain may be to blame

By Nic Healey and Jessie Davies, Wednesday September 9, 2020 - 13:24 EST
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Quandongs can sell for up to $220 a kilogram. - ABC

In western New South Wales bush tucker fans are coming up empty when foraging for wild quandongs — so where has the quandong gone?

The desert fruit usually abounds around Bourke and Ledknapper, near the Queensland border, but fruit this year is scant.

Husband and wife team Mike and Gayle Quarmby believe much-needed rain that fell earlier this year could be to blame.

"A big rain in early February could have actually knocked the flowers off," Mr Quarmby said.

"The little florets might even have tiny fruit developing, but they're still very delicate and a heavy rain can knock them right off."

Bureau of Meteorology records showed Bourke received 21.4 millimetres of rain on February 6 this year.

Quandongs flower in early summer, usually around December and January.

By May small green fruit are produced and then they colour up and ripen in August and September.

Could it be drought?

Mr Quarmby said the drought could also be blamed.

"Because of the long period of drought, the flowers may have dropped too early," he said.

"They rely on the plant around them for nutrients, and if those plants were under extreme stress, the quandong could have responded to that stress by losing the flower."

The couple operate Reedy Creek Nursery in South Australia and developed , which is helping grow a bush food industry for remote Aboriginal communities.

Mike, a horticulturalist, helped the Clara Hart community near Enngonia cultivate the quandongs which grows naturally as a parasite to the acacia.

"They're an ancient plant, related distantly to mistletoe," Mr Quarmby said.

"They love to establish themselves right near an acacia and take nutrients from them."

Supply scant as demand rockets

Bush tucker purveyor Sharon Winsor said the native peach's steep rise in popularity meant it was already hard to source in bulk.

Ms Winsor, who just opened a native foods cafe in Mudgee called Warakirri by Indigiearth, sells 3,000 jars of chutney and 2,000 jars of jam using the fruit each year.

She recently ordered 50 kilograms of frozen fruit at a cost of $80 a kilogram.

"It's getting dear due to its popularity — you could pay up to $220 a kilogram for fruit," Ms Winsor said.

"Customers like it because it's something they've never tried; or, alternatively, they tried it in their childhood and haven't had it since."


© ABC 2020

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