Horticulture

Edible plants keep Tony going after starting with tomatoes

One of the many exotic edible plants Lychee farmer Tony Welch grows is pepper. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
One of the many exotic edible plants Lychee farmer Tony Welch grows is pepper. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison

FOR Tony Welch it all started with a humble tomato crop 40 years ago.

Now the Bungundarra farmer grows lychees, mangoes, longans, aracas, chillies, pepper, asparagus, coffee and some citrus fruits.

His major focus is the commercial lychee crop of 1000 trees, but he said he grows the other produce for personal use as "a hobby and a therapy".

When Tony and his wife Denise moved to the property in the 70s they began with tomatoes, and it was not until listening to a talk on rare tropical fruits that they decided to make the switch in the 80s.

"With tomatoes, you've got to keep ploughing the ground and replanting," he said.

"With (lychee) trees, once they're planted they only need maintenance."

He also grows black sapote, also known as chocolate pudding fruit, and sapodilla, both of which originate in central America.

At this time of year the rare tropical fruits are not in season, and the berries on the pepper vine are only half grown.

In December, Tony harvested 700 grams of dried pepper off his one vine, which took him about three or four hours to harvest by hand.

Pepper is picked green, then dried in the sun for about three to four weeks, which reduces it to 35% of its weight according to Tony.

The Welch's have eight to 10 varieties of lychees growing, with six or seven of those for commercial purposes.

Tony also exports his lychees to wholesalers in Sydney, where there is a bigger market.

The current warmer temperatures are not optimal conditions for the crop, but Tony is hoping for a bumper yield in the next harvest in November-December, so he can retire on a good note.

Last year, they had a poor crop, but that was on the back of a bumper crop that resulted in them bringing in 16 workers to help harvest.

Tony is part of Capricorn Edible Plants Inc.

The group is holding a Biggest Morning Tea from 2pm to 4.40pm at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens today.

All proceeds are going to the Cancer Council.

Topics:  bungundarra lychees tomato



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