Hard toil in Perth’s poor soil is bearing rare fruit

ABC Radio Perth

By

Emma Wynne

Updated

January 10, 2018 12:01:42

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One of Barry Madsen’s trees has ripe chocolate pudding fruit on it. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
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Perth 6000
“I was a standard workaholic, eating terrible junk food and supermarket microwave stuff and I knew that my diet was terrible.”He and his wife had once owned a property in north Queensland that had an avocado tree. He had retired and decided to live a healthier lifestyle. Photo:
A grumichama, sometimes called Brazil cherry, is just one of the rare trees in Mr Madsen’s garden. “Here in Perth we have some of the poorest soil in the world.”But it can be surmounted provided you cater for their special needs.”It is amazing what you can get to grow here.”Mr Madsen has built up the soil in his garden with large doses of compost. There, they got used to not having to pay for their daily fix. His annual harvest is enormous. “Most people would think in a backyard you could put five trees,” he said.”But you’re in charge. Photo:
Barry Madsen gets around 80kg of pawpaw fruit a year from his trees and is determined to not waste any. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
Getting advice on how to source and grow exotic species is where the Rare Fruit Club comes in.It has around 100 members and they meet regularly at each other’s properties, giving them a chance to see and taste what others are growing. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
Members can sometimes take a cutting of a rare plant that would otherwise be almost impossible to buy. Barry Madsen’s suburban Perth home is barely visible from the street.That’s because the rich garden that wraps around his house boasts more than 50 rare fruit and nut trees; a look that certainly sets him apart from his neighbours.”In the western suburbs, almost every blade of grass is trimmed to the right level; it looks beautiful but it does nothing,” Mr Madsen said. He also keeps his trees well enough watered.And now he has more fruit than he could ever eat. Overcoming Perth’s lack of rain and sandy soilsWhile southern Western Australia’s hot, dry summers, its sandy, infertile soils and strict quarantine laws that prevent importing tropical plants from interstate are all challenges, creating an exotic orchard at home is possible, according to Mr Madsen. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
It started 10 years ago. For example, he picks around 80 kilograms of pawpaw every year and almost always has an oversupply of avocadoes.He is determined to not let anything go to waste, so he has also built a large fruit preservation operation at home.”I have dryers and canners and all sorts of things. That’s what we have to do with our fruit trees, is get control.” (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
Mr Madsen now has more than 50 trees and vines, growing everything from avocadoes and figs to feijoas, a chocolate pudding fruit and carob pods. That is not on.”

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A juvenile dragon fruit resembles a cactus and grows over a trestle at Mr Madsen’s home. From your own experience, have you got any tips for growing an edible garden? (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
Return on investmentIf a tree doesn’t perform for Mr Madsen, it gets the chop to make space for something new.”I just pulled out a great big plum tree I’d had for seven years,” he said.”I was getting plums but it was taking up a big space and I just didn’t think I was getting a return for it.”Mr Madsen said you didn’t need a lot of space or a big backyard to get involved in growing rare fruit.He has squeezed in a tree tomato along a narrow path beside his house and a passionfruit vine by the washing line. “Having spent all this time and TLC to generate this stuff, you can’t waste it. then you meet a few other enthusiasts and you taste something they’ve grown and think, ‘Wow, I’ve got to have one of those’.”

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The flower of the Saba nut, which is thought to come from South America. “It reaches out to people out there that are battling on alone,” Mr Madsen said.Waste not, want notMr Madsen’s garden has been planted with a mix of varieties and species to ensure he gets ripe fruit of some kind almost all year round. So Mr Madsen decided to have a crack at growing avocadoes at his home in Perth.”Once you get involved in this you get addicted. Join the discussion in the comments. “You start of thinking you’ll grow an avocado tree … “My garden I call an edible, working garden — it’s not meant to be pretty.”Mr Madsen is the president of the Rare Fruit Club of Western Australia, and by his own admission he is just a little bit obsessed. Photo:
Barry Madsen’s suburban house is barely visible from the street thanks to an orchard of rare fruit and nut trees.