Get a taste of the exotic at farmers' markets
THE return of Picone Exotics to the local farmers' markets is always a sure sign summer is on the way.
The stall, run by Tyagarah couple John and Lyndall Picone, always carries an incredible array of exotic fruits, herbs and spices that come into season during the warmer months.
It's a favourite destination for shoppers at the farmers' markets, who come to discover new flavours, enjoy the luscious fresh and seasonal ripe fruit, marvel at the unusual and hard-to-find produce and chat with John - a living encyclopedia when it comes to tropical fruits.
"It's always great to come back to the markets,” said John, who attends the New Brighton and Mullumbimby farmers' markets from October to May each year.
"For me the highlight is seeing all the old faces that we leave each season - the hugs and welcome we get - our customers are our friends.”
A highly respected grower, John's tropical fruit orchard contains more than 200 varieties, many of which are native to Asia and South America.
Pepper and vanilla beans grow among fragrant and exotic fruits such as abiu, longan, loquats, Brazilian cherries and jackfruit.
John's love of fruit dates back to his childhood in Italy, where he says he would often be scolded for climbing trees in the family orchard.
"I remember my mother yelling at me for climbing the apricot trees and eating half-ripe apricots,” he laughs.
After a career in graphic design in Sydney, John relocated to the Northern Rivers with his family two decades ago to start his new life as a tropical fruit farmer.
He says growing the way he does and selling through the farmers' markets allows his fruit to be enjoyed as it is meant to be - ripe, fresh and full of flavour.
He loves to share his passion with others and says one of the greatest rewards is seeing his customers enjoy what he has grown.
"Sometimes people will say 'that's the best thing I've ever eaten',” he says. "That's what it's about.”
ON JOHN'S STALL NOW
Chilacayote: A species of squash native to South America. The pulp can be used in smoothies, or juiced. It can also be roasted, boiled, steamed, or chopped into cubes and drizzled with honey. The highly nutritious seeds are rich in fat and protein and can be eaten roasted.
Red shatoot: Also known as Indian mulberry, the fruit are longer than common mulberries, and sweeter: "The flavour is incredible,” says John.
Canistel: Also known as egg fruit. A fragrant fruit similar is size to a peach. Tastes like pumpkin and sweet potato brioche. Great in smoothies.
Fresh peppercorns: It can be almost impossible to find fresh peppercorns, which makes John's freshly grown pepper a real treat. Fantastic in Thai cooking or a creamy peppercorn sauce.