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“Forbidden fruit” the star in Gisborne orchard’s citrus line-up

One of the things Murray Burgess loves about his grapefruit crop is the fruit’s versatility. He can leave them on the tree to grow in size, he can pick them early and put them in a degreening chamber to get them ready for market, or he can have a range of varieties to harvest in winter and summer. Anne Hardie spoke to the boutique citrus grower about the joys of growing grapefruit.

Murray and his wife, Wendy, grow 12 hectares of citrus at Te Karaka, 30km inland from Gisborne, with a mix of mandarins, oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit. They bought Blue Willow Citrus  20 years ago because Murray had been working on a variety of orchards and wanted to “have a crack at it” himself.

“There was a bit to learn,” he says. “Anyone who says they know everything there is to know about growing citrus is a liar.”

On the grapefruit side of the business, Murray and Wendy grow the Golden Special (Morrison variety), Cutlers Red variety for winter fruiting and Star Ruby for its summer crop.

Golden Special is an improved version of the Morrison seedless variety, producing a juicy, tangy and sweet fruit. The yellow-skinned, white-fleshed grapefruit usually comes into production in late May or early June and will hang around on the trees until September or October, depending on supply and demand.

Cutlers Red matures a little later than Golden Special, with the first fruit usually harvested from late July or early August and running through to October or November. The fruit has a rich red-orange skin and white flesh that is sweet and juicy, with just a little zing.

Star Ruby is a pink-flesh grapefruit that only begins to mature from late November and hits its straps flavour-wise in the new year when the flesh reaches a deep pink blush and juice content is high.

Grapefruit is welcome relief for Murray after harvesting the mandarin crop, for two reasons – they are bigger fruit, and he can pick the fruit gradually to suit market demand instead of picking the entire crop at once.

“You can pick them half green in June and put them in degreening chambers,” Murray says. “That will turn them to their natural colour so you can get the early market.

“What I like about grapefruit is you can leave them on the tree all the way through to October.”

For more information:
Tel.: +61 04 472 3795

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