Hybrid fruit a secret hit

Big Orange co-owner Neil Richards grows the peculiar citrus fruit at his orchard. Picture: Julian Lehnert 235367_01

The term “lemonade” conjurs up memories of sweltering summer afternoons, refreshing beverages and fizzy sugar highs, but now a fruit of the same namesake is enjoying a small but devoted following at a Gayndah orchard.

The lemonade fruit – an unassuming hybrid species of lemon and mandarin – grows on the orchard of Big Orange co-owner Neil Richards alongside popular members of the citrus family such as Murcotts and Imperials.

Mr Richards, who maintains a small contingent of lemonade trees on his property, said the fruit sees limited popularity among locals and travelers due to its looks.

“They’re a bit like a lime – to me, they’re best eaten green,” he said.

“When they go yellow, they dry out a little bit. But people don’t seem to want something that’s green – they think it’s not ripe yet,” he added.

Mr Richards and his wife Tania, who run Gayndah’s Big Orange together, turn ripe lemonade fruits into a refreshing marmelade by blending it with lime, resulting in a spread with less sweetness than ones made from mandarins or oranges.

“They’re not sweet and they’re not sour – they have a very refreshing, neutral flavour,” Mr Richards said.

An at-home taste test confirmed the orchard owner’s assessment – lemonade fruits house a wealth of juicy and refreshing segments which pack a miniscule hit of tartness in their juice to balance out the fruit’s flavour profile.

But potential scrumpers beware – the lemonade tree comes equipped with plenty of long, sharp thorns, a defense mechanism it inherited from its parent species, the lemon.

“They’re a hard fruit to market, because the plant has those huge thorns that mark and scratch the fruit,” Mr Richards said.

Lemonade trees are a stand-out in the Big Orange’s line-up of citrus fruits, as the hybrid species is said to flower and produce fruit several times a year instead of just once.

The fruit was reportedly discovered in the 1980s in New Zealand before finding an audience across the Tasman – now, Gayndah orchards ship the fruit to citrus lovers across the country.

“All you have to do is try them,” Mr Richards said.

“Once you do, you’ll love them.”