Custard apples of our eyes

By Jennifer Kent

Producers: Karen and Robert Martin
Farm name: Yanalla Farms
Farm location: Glass House Mountains

HARVEST season for custard apples has begun and GC&M News was lucky enough to visit Yanalla Farms, sit amongst the orchard and talk all things custard apples with Glass House Mountains producer Karen Martin.
From almost lost farmland to a signature variety of custard apple grown nowhere else in the world, second generation farmers Karen and Robert are passionate local farmers and wonderful supporters of local agritourism.
Known in other countries as ‘sugar apples’, this sub-tropical fruit has a unique, sweet taste which is unlike any other fruit. Further north, typical custard apple seasons starts in February, however Yanalla Farms grow a specific variety which is the only variety to grow ‘out of season’.
Their signature ‘Pink Blush’ is grown only on their farm, with harvest running from September through to December. The variety developed naturally from an existing tree planted by Robert’s late father prior to Karen and Robert taking over the family property. Encouraging propagation from a single branch grown out of season, Karen and Robert have developed the variety which has proved to be ever-popular with interstate and overseas markets.
What makes ‘Pink Blush’ different from other varieties?
We are the only producer of this particular variety, which is really special. Most varieties of custard apple are green in colour, however, our custard apples range anywhere from light pink, through to orange, depending on the amount of sun they are exposed to.
What is the size of your crop?
Our property size is 55 acres, and of that we have 2,000 custard apple trees within our orchard, and we’re hoping to reach 5,000 in the next couple of years. We also have 470 mature lychee trees, which are harvested in early February and we’re almost ready to plant another 380 trees which will take approximately 5-7 years before they’re ready for harvest. We also grow dragon fruit, however, we’ll be reducing our crop – not completely – to best utilise our growth in custard apples.
Can you run us through a typical day?
During harvest we’re up early, hand-picking fruit while it is still cool. Custard apples are particularly delicate, so we’re unable to mechanise this process – hand-picking allows us to keep the integrity of the fruit. It’s important that the fruit remains cool, which is why we pick in the early hours of the day. They’re transported straight into the cool room where their temperature is reduced to six degrees overnight. They’re then packed the following day and dispatched at the same temperature. This is our usual routine for four months of the year, along with the day to day running on the farm.
What do you love about farming?
Both Robert and I have grown up around farming and we enjoy the outdoors. What’s great about our farm in particular is with all the hard behind the scenes bits, seeing our product grow. It could have so easily been bulldozed to make way for something else, but we’ve been able to grow something truly special. It’s really rewarding. We are the only place in the world that grows this plant and that’s something quite special.
Where can we buy your custard apples?
We traditionally sell to wholesalers, with particular interest coming from Melbourne, however as we continue to grow – and Covid really pushed us in this direction – we’re offering a click and collect, where people can place an order online of a 2kg or 4kg tray, so be collected from our farm gate.
If you’d like to find out more about Yanalla Farms, or order your tray of Pink Blush custard apples straight from the farm, visit their website, and make sure to check out their Facebook and Instagram.