Australian peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots are some of the world’s best eating fruit thanks to Australia’s horticultural practices. Australia’s dry climate with cool winters and controlled irrigation ensures growers can produce quality summer stonefruit.

Australian summer stonefruit is produced in approximately 26 regions in all states across the country. Victoria and New South Wales dominate, however South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia are also important production states.

Production has risen by approximately 25% over the last decade to over 100,000 tonnes per annum produced by about 1,200 growers. The 250 largest summer stonefruit growers are responsible for around 80% of Australian produce.

Early season’s produce comes from sub-tropical Queensland and northern areas of Western Australia and New South Wales and are followed by crops from areas such as mid to southern New South Wales, parts of Victoria like Swan Hill and the Riverland of South Australia. Fruit from cooler climates are last to market.

The summer stonefruit industry in Australia can be classified into low, medium and high chill production areas.

Low chill summer stonefruits are on the market before October and attract a price premium due to their limited availability at that time. Low chill varieties are produced in the area North of Coffs Harbour in NSW to the Atherton Tablelands in QLD, and in the area north of Gingin in WA.

Medium chill varieties are concentrated in and around Stanthorpe in Queensland, the Central Coast of NSW through to the Sydney basin and south to the Araluen Valley, extending to the warmer inland regions of Swan Hill and the Riverland of SA.

High chill fruit is produced in cooler climates including Southern NSW, the Goulburn Valley in VIC, SA, Southern WA, and Tasmania.

Diverse growing areas enable growers to export their most optimal selection of varieties through November and April. Unlike Pome Fruit, Stone fuit does not store well even at low temperatures and has a shelf life of 2 – 6 weeks.  

peaches.

Originating in China where it has been cultivated for thousands of years and regarded as the tree of life, the peach has been produced in Australia since the 19th Century.

Peaches bruise easily so look for smooth, unblemished fruit and handle them with care. Peaches will generally arrive in the market in a firm condition and will have flesh that crunches when eaten. As the fruit ripens it will begin to soften and become more juicy.

Australian peaches are available between October and April.

QLD – Granite Belt, Sunshine Coast Hinterland
NSW – Araluen, Bathurst, Central Tablelands, Coffs Harbour, Forbes, Hunter Valley, Medowie, Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, Northern Tablelands, Tumut, Sydney Hills District, Young
VIC – Goulburn Valley, Melbourne Metropolitan Area, Mid Murray
TAS – Huon, North East
SA – Adelaide Hills, Riverland
WA – Dwellingup, Donnybrook, Manjimup, Perth Hills

nectarines.

Nectarines, or ‘nectar of the Gods’, are a variety of peach with a smooth yellow, orange or red skin and either white or yellow juicy flesh.  Originating in China some 4000 years ago, nectarines can either be eaten firm and crunchy or allowed to ripen to become soft, juicy and lower in acid.

Yellow nectarines will reveal superior eating qualities when they yield slightly to gentle palm pressure and can taste both sweet and tart, while their white counterparts are sweet when they are still firm and crunchy. Both types will express more juice as the fruit softens.

Australian nectarines are available between October and April.

QLD – Granite Belt, Sunshine Coast Hinterland
NSW – Central Tablelands, Hunter Valley, Sydney Hills District, Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area
VIC – Goulburn Valley, Melbourne Metropolitan Area
TAS – Huon, North East
SA – Adelaide Hills, Riverland
WA – Donnybrook, Perth Hills

plums.

Plums are far more diverse than their stonefruit relatives coming in a wider range of shapes, sizes, skin colours and tastes which vary from extremely sweet to quite tart. As a result of the wide range of colours it is quite difficult to know exactly which fruit to select. Some cultivars will become dull and soft as they ripen and lose their acid flavour. Other varieties will remain firm as they ripen and will be very high in sugar straight from the tree.

Australian Plums are available between November and April.

QLD – Granite Belt, Sunshine Coast
NSW – Central Tablelands, Griffith, Hunter Valley, Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, Orange, Young
VIC – Goulburn Valley, Melbourne Metropolitan Area, Mid Murray
SA – Adelaide Hills, Riverland
WA – Dwellingup, Donnybrook, Manjimup, Perth Hills

apricots.

In Latin, apricot means ‘precious’, a label earned because it ripens earlier than other stonefruit.

Apricots may have completely yellow in color or orange sometimes with an attractive red blush. Their characteristic flavour and sweetness develops as the fruit softens.

Australian apricots are available between November and February.

QLD – Stanthorpe District
NSW – Bathurst, Dareton, Gosford, Hunter Valley, Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, Orange, Tumut, Windsor, Young
VIC – Goulburn Valley, Mid Murray, Sunraysia
TAS – South East Region
SA – Barossa Valley, Riverland
WA – Donnybrook, Dwellingup Manjimup, Perth Hills

mangos.

Mangoes are predominantly grown in the Northern Territory, Queensland, and when combined, produce approximately 95% of the total national crop. Mangoes are also grown in Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The seasonal harvest starts in the Northern Territory and Western Australia in September, followed by Queensland’s dry tropical regions (Townsville / Burdekin / Bowen) in mid-November, Mareeba / Dimbulah in early December, Central Queensland in late December, and South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales in January.

Total volume of fruit marketed fluctuates from year to year, due to seasonal conditions and the irregular bearing nature of the crop. Average crop over the last five years has been approximately 60,000 tonnes. The gross value of production (GVP) at farm gate is approximately $180 million per annum. 

There are a range of commercial mango varieties grown in Australia for the domestic and export markets. The main varieties and their respective approximate marketshare are: Kensington Pride (47%), Calypso™ (23%), R2E2 (13%), Honey Gold™ (6%), Keitt (5%) and other varieties (6%). Delicious!

cherries.

From the humidity of Queensland to the dry Victorian Sunraysia region and the temperate climate of Tasmania – the scope, volume and variety of Australian Cherries is as distinctive as its regions. The Australian Cherry industry is spread across six states with diversity in climatic conditions and cherry varieties produced.

New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are the largest cherry growing states producing in excess of 4,000 tonnes each per annum followed by South Australia with approximately 2,500 tonnes each year. Western Australia and Queensland produce smaller quantities (under 500 tonnes) and sell primarily to the domestic market. Regional locality is a major determinant in the variety produced and channel to market with fluctuations in cherry maturing times across different regions.

Regional characteristics such as climate, rainfall and soil composition also influence cherry variety produced with different varieties displaying unique tendencies and growing capabilities. Areas with variable climates including high rainfall and humidity bring increased complexity in crop management in relation to disease control and harvest schedule.

More than 80 different cherry varieties are grown throughout Australia delivering extensive consumer choice in the type and taste of Australian Cherries.

Common cherries grown in Australia include Merchant, Bing, Lapin, Van, Sweetheart, Ron, Skeena, Regina, Staccato, Sequoia, Dawn series, Simone and Kordia to name a few of the more popular varieties. New Australian-bred varieties have also emerged, stemming from the National Cherry Breeding Program to generate optimal cherry pedigree aligned with Australia’s unique growing conditions.

The Australian Cherry Season lasts just 100 days – spanning the spring and summer months.

The first cherry harvest starts in October/November in the eastern mainland states and extends through to late February with the majority of cherry crops harvested during December and January.

Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria are the first to supply to market followed by Western Australia and Tasmania who reap their biggest returns in December and January.

Tasmania has the shortest harvest window – yet the third largest volume – at approximately eight weeks with the majority of the cherry growing states capitalizing on three to four months of harvest.

Varietal diversity impacts seasonality and timing of harvest in Australia with wide-ranging premium stone fruit varying in colour, flavour and taste amongst a short supply season.

Seasonal factors such as rainfall, humidity and frost have the capacity to impact the volume and quality of cherry crops with precise care and management required by orchardists at harvest to maximise crop output.

Quandong, Quandang or Quondong

There are three types of native Australian fruit referred to as quandong but only one species is edible and has potential as a commercial enterprise. This species, Santalum acumination, is generally referred to as quandong, but has many other common names including desert quandong, sweet quandong, native peach, wild peach, desert peach, guwandhuna, gutchu, goorti, katunga and mangata. It grows in arid and semi-arid regions of most states of Australia.

Fossilised Quandongs have been found in the coal seams of Southern Victoria dating back 40 million years ago. The name ‘quandong’ was one of 400 aboriginal words adopted by white settlers into the Australian English language from the Wiradhuri languages of south-western NSW in 1836.

Commercialisation began in the 70s and since 1973 CSIRO Australia is researching improved commercial cultivars. RIRDC, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation views this crop as one of the most important native food crops currently being developed.

The small desert tree grows up to 4 metres high, with rough dark bark and pale green elongated hanging leaves.

Quandong trees use the root system of other trees, shrubs and grasses to supplement their own supply of nutrients and water, and will therefore usually be found growing from the base of another treeThe cream flowers are small and cup shaped, in clusters at the ends of the outer branchlets. Flowers form in late summer which become fruit ready for harvest in early spring.

The shiny, bright scarlet fruit is about 2cm in diameter and contains one large nut or kernel, which is sometimes only marginally smaller than the fruit.

Quandongs have been an important traditional aboriginal fruit, which is, although somewhat tart, highly nutritious and contains twice the vitamin C of an orange.

The kernel is also very nutritious but indigenous Australians tended to use this mainly for medicinal purposes. The wood from the slow growing trees was prized for the making of traditional bowls – pitti or coolamons. The Quandong fruit feature heavily in aboriginal mythology across all the desert regions of Australia.

Links and further reading

https://summerfruit.com.au/

https://mangoes.net.au/

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