She’s Gone Bananas!
Part two of Ged and Katie’s weekend adventure was a sugar fueled journey around one of Ged’s most memorable childhood destinations. Tropical Fruit World is a landmark tourist attraction at Tweed on Gold Coast that as you may have guessed by the name, is all about weird and wonderful tropical fruits. Having visited the farm-based tourist attraction as a boy and eaten a very memorable tropical fruit sundae Ged was pretty keen for a re-vist and to take me along for his trip down memory lane. The property now known as Tropical Fruit World was purchased in 1972 by Bob and Val Brinsmead. It had previously been utilised as cattle grazing and crops and wasn’t in the best condition but the couple saw potential in the rich red volcanic soils and were keen to grow tropical fruits and a raise a family on the land. Bob and Val were pretty passionate about Avocados (who blames them… I don’t think there is anything better than an avocado) so their family got stuck into planting avocados and a collection of other tropical fruits on their property. A beautiful little rainforest area had been preserved in the valley. This had water springs, koalas, possums and wallabies and was a delightful place of family discovery and adventure. Pretty water catchments made for some great fun – diving boards, floating rafts, and flying foxes were constructed. When the children had moved out of home the couple decided to share their home made farm adventure land with the public and opened Avocadoland in 1983. The business stayed in the family when the eldest child Judith took over the farm in 1990 and they renamed the attraction Tropical Fruit World in 1995 due to the diversity of fruit now offered.
Fruit Fuelled Fun
The Tropical Fruit World experience is quite structured. When we arrived we were issued a tour time and sent down a path via a very distracting (for me) collection of cacti and succulents and an incredibly friendly water dragon (who looked suspiciously well fed… those cute looks must woo the tourists to feed him fruit) to join a fruit education and tasting session. In this short presentation we learnt what makes a fruit a fruit. Do you know the answer? It’s the seeds. A fruit is part of the flower of a plant and all fruits contain seeds. This is a bit confusing when you first find out because many items we buy under the guise of vegetables in a store are actually fruits. Pumpkin? A fruit. Tomato. Fruit. How about a strawberry? Have you ever thought much about a strawberry and where it’s seeds are? Turns out those little annoying bits that get stuck in your teeth aren’t technically seeds, they are teeny tiny fruits, and the red fleshy bit of the strawberry you think is a fruit is actually just an enlarged stamen (which is the plants male sex organ… plants are gross aren’t they, he he he). I actually had no idea that this was how a strawberry plant worked until attending the talk so I felt I had got my moneys worth of fasciation already. If you are still confused about strawberries you can read here to learn more. After sitting patiently and learning all things fruit and veg we were rewarded with a tropical fruit tasting session. Many of the fruits on offer were ones I had tried before but truthfully no-one is going to complain about eating star fruit and dragon fruit when it’s placed in front of you!
When the fruit eating subsided we all climbed into a purpose built trailer hitched to a tractor (oh how quaint!) and were taken on a tour around the property by a friendly young tour guide who we suspect was hired for his incredibly ‘Aussie’ accent. The plantation collection offers a number of exhibition gardens, displaying fruits by region:
- Chinese Garden: Lychees, wampis longans, mulberries
- Inca Garden: Champagne fruit, mountain pawpaw
- Sth East Asian Garden: Wax jambu, giant pommelo
- Aztec Garden: Canistel, chocolate fruit
- Indian Garden: Jakfruit, mangos, guavas
- South Pacific Garden: Papaya, bananas, passionfruit
- Tropical Berry Garden: Jaboticabas, cherry guavas and the amazing miracle fruit
- Experimental Garden: Noni, goji
- Bush Tucker Garden: Davidson’s plum, lemon myrtle, macadamias.
As a succulent and cacti lover my favourite plantations to look at were the dragonfruit ones (they have two, one established and the other experimental). These architectural beauties look like dinosaurs when grown up poles in fields. I just love the way the fruit looks (above). It would have to be one of the most visually appealing fruits on the market.
The tractor ride stopped at the banana plantations and the macadamia orchard. We were able to ‘harvest’ our own bananas and eat them. The blue java variety of bananas caught my eye as they hung overhead waiting for a photograph. I hadn’t seen a blue banana before and as a banana addict the idea they could come in a few different colours I didn’t previously know about excited me. Unfortunately there weren’t any blue java to try but I did get to take home some Red Dacca bananas that have a subtle mango flavour to them. Delish! I wish I could say I was excited by cracking macadamias but after cracking and sorting what must of been at least 100kg of them for a science experiment last year the joy of nutcraking isn’t what it used to be. However as macadamias are one of my all time favourite nuts I still got stuck into it and Ged stood by lazily while I cracked them open for him to eat. Guess he had a ‘leave it to the expert’ approach there.
Now we were well fed and educated the tour took us to an animal farm with mostly domesticated but a few native animals. This establishment is a farm and does not really promote itself based for sustainability credentials so for folks like Ged and I who have been trained to look for eco friendly options we could see room for improvement in operations. Feeding the ducks in the lake and on the boat ride with bread was not something I would openly advocate but it is a key part of the boat tour. Also it looked like there were few (if any) measures in place to prevent animal and farm run off from ended up in the dams and water bodies. However, it should be noted that this is fairly common practice in most farms across Australia. Kids seemed to love the opportunity to interact with farm animals but it might upset some (I didn’t feel great about it) to see animals in cages and pens even if they do look well loved and cared for. The donkeys were begging for me to pet them and I couldn’t resist because their faces are just so cute. After this we went on a boat ride to an island with miniature train rides, a flying fox (kids sized) some games and mini golf. After realising we both totally suck at quoits Ged and I played mini golf while others rode the miniature railway train.
The Final Destination.
After the fun was had we were back on the tractor for a ride up to the gift shop and cafe. As lovers of interesting condiments and sauces we invested in some of the Tropical Fruit World hot sauces and mustards (which fortunately all come in recyclable glass bottles) and added them to our hot chips and burgers at the cafe. I had a Duranbah veggie burger (which they can do without cheese) and Ged ended his lunch with a ‘choose your own’ fruit mix soft serve. Overall I had an awesome day at this classic tourist attraction. While it’s not the adrenaline filled adventure you might have at many of the other Gold Coast tourist parks there was something uniquely Australian about spending the morning eating fresh fruit and being pulled around by a tractor. It should be noted that I am a born and raised ‘country girl’ so nostalgia might have played a part in my enjoyment. My favourite new discoveries from the fruit market were the miracle fruit. A little coffee bean sized fruit that magically turns sour to sweet for around 20 minutes after your eat it. It was fun to try sucking on a lemon, which still tasted like lemon but without a hint of the acidic bite, very weird indeed! The other was the wax jambu, a fruit with a very subtle flavour but an amazing crunchy and fresh texture. I used mine in salads and on top of homemade nachos. Thinking I might invest in my own tree because I enjoyed them so much.
Do you have a favourite tropical fruit? Or are you blown away by the news that Strawberry seeds aren’t what you thought they were? Perhaps you have returned as an adult to a favourite childhood destination. Let us know all about it below!