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Paradise Plum - By Lydia Fraser

I thought living in paradise was akin to summer romance, balmy nights and dining on succulent tropical fruits. However reality is rarely reflective of my imaginings... My balmy evenings leave me breathless, although this is not due to a steamy romance, but rather the high humidity levels. The summers are not romantic either, they are fraught with potential jelly fish stings, the imminent dangers of cyclones, repressive heat, noisy mosquitoes and noisy tourists.

However minus a few short comings…I do love living in paradise. I am surrounded by the turquoise waters of the coral sea. Its unique beauty is soul inspiring. And I can purchase fresh seafood from the fishing trawlers, eat oysters directly off the rocks, and dine on succulent fruits. However there is one such fruit that I discovered that is not so succulent.…it’s commonly known as the Burdekin plum... other names for it are tulip plum or acid fruit... the later is an appropriate name for it. When the fruit is picked and eaten directly off the tree its taste is tart and acidic. Preparation is the key to improving its taste. It’s like love when it hasn't matured properly… it can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Love ripens or sours due to the conditions, as does this divine little piece of fruit. When it is placed in the right environment it softens and sweetens overtime. The ripening process was taught to the early settlers by the First Nations people. The technique to enhance its flavour involves burying the fruit in the sand for several days until it becomes moist and pleasant tasting.

Even though I had lived in the tropics for many years, this fruit remained on the periphery of my knowing. I find many beneficial things in my life tend to go unnoticed in my immediate environment…insight mainly occurs through incidents that are forced upon me… The honing in on details is not on par with my ability too see a larger perspective.. The birds eye view is far more interesting than minor details or so it seems?

Oversights due to lack of detail has led me to live off early pickings, bitterness of an un-ripened yield has harmed my ability to digest life to its fullest…I’m a slow learner, yet I need to slow down and observe. Patience is the virtue of maturity in recognisng that small things matter.... And like the fruit itself… I’ve been buried many times for maturation.. the art of containment makes you more aware of your environment. Being “grounded“ brings focus…the smallest detail can be a life changing moment… everything holds relevance in the grand scheme of things.

I am opposite to the idiom “can’t see the forest for the trees”. I would of walked by the Burdekin plum tree a thousand times. Oblivious to a fruit that I would soon come to love. I remember it being spoken of but it never captured my interest. It wasn't until I moved to Magnetic Island that I became intrigued by this precious plum. Actually the recognition of its initial discovery does not belong to me...

While I was hiking in the bush my friend bent down and picked up a small round dark red fruit. (Unbeknown to me it was the Burdekin plum.) He looked at me as if to say should I try this? I was apprehensive and suggested that maybe a poisoning was about to take place. But my concern fell on deaf ears and he continued to put it in his mouth. This act of defiance didn't surprise me as he was a person that lives on the edge, curious by nature and prone to experimental urgings. He has a strong instinct for survival though... and I would say he seems to hold little fear for death, but I also sense he holds a greater fear of love. I know he has healed many broken bones, but I am unsure as to whether he has healed a broken heart. This is not something he chooses to speak of. I think he would rather face the certainty of death, than face the uncertainty of love. It seems he has a risk assessment strategy in place when it comes to affairs of the heart, yet conversely he is a high risk man with a indestructible nature. If that fruit had happened to be poison... he would of probably transmuted its toxic effects. He is one of those freakish human beings that has tested fate many times! He would of been honoured by the tribe in a distant past for testing the effects of unknown flora and their potential for medicine and food. I'll always honour my 'adventurous' friend and his discovery from that memorable day, as it has served my interest in bush food and my knowledge continues to grow.

The Burdekin plum is native to Australia it has been in existence for 30 million years. Some of its indigenous names are Guybalum, Gowan Gowan and Oolooboo. Although it is a rainforest species, it is drought resistant and can survive in rocky and sandy terrain... It thrives amongst the large granite boulders on Magnetic Island and it is hardy and adaptive like my dear plum eating friend. Due to the trees resilient nature it bears a fruit that is a super food. Its nectar is not the of the gods, but it is a god like fruit. It has five times the anti-oxidant content of blueberries.

This little plum of paradise signifies a way of existence that serves the process of slowing down and waiting in the stillness, and not forcing things to mature early. This is how I've found paradise within myself. Fast is not always productive, immediate results rob us of tasting the savouring of something that should be time honoured.

As I've matured and experienced food growing in it's natural environment. I understand that life is abundant and food is sacred. Fast food is synonymous with ill health, it is a contradiction in terms. Our relationship to food should be calming and nourishing, rest and digest resonance is how we maintain health.

Food has become an industrialized commodity, which has severed the connection to the life force of our food supply. There is an opportunity for reconnection through establishing a backyard food garden, and home cooking is making a comeback. The Burdekin plum has been used in home cooking for jams, chutneys, wines and flavouring meats. Food and gardening connects us to the processes of to life, and this humble plum connects us to the art of preparation.

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