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Bush tomato farm anticipates promising harvest after tough few years in the Red Centre

Close up view of a bush tomato plant with fruit
After losing most of his bush tomato crop over the last two years, Max Emery says this harvest is promising.

ABC Rural: Katrina Beavan

A Central Australian bush tomato farm has begun harvest, with the season poised to be one of the best ever.

It follows on from two very difficult years on the farm, when most of the crop was wiped out due to extreme heat and pests.

Max Emery, director of desert garden produce, said it all depended on the weather, and in a good year, the operation has the potential to produce 200kg of dried produce.

"It's on par with some of the best years we've ever had, as it looks at the moment," he said.

"Every year you get a very early throw of fruit on some plants, and then you've got to wait.

"Half way through this month we'll be able to tell whether we're going to get a very good crop or not."

However, Mr Emery said harvest would go until mid-next year, and it was difficult to predict how consistent it would be throughout that time, as it came in waves.

"It becomes quite unnerving at times because sometimes you think, 'I'm never going to get any fruit', and then all of a sudden you've got so much you don't know what to do with it."

Max Emery bending over and picking bush tomatoes in a paddock on red dirt
The bush tomato harvest on Max Emery's farm lasts for more than six months, and all the crop is hand picked.

ABC Rural: Katrina Beavan

High demand

According to Mr Emery there was high demand for the product, however harvest was slow going as all the crop was handpicked.

"We don't believe in machine harvesting. You damage the plant and you often lose a lot of fruit value.

Once the fruit is picked, it is then cleaned, sun dried, packed, and then often sold as crushed up powder.

Mr Emery told the Northern Territory Country Hour that a high percentage of bush tomato product was used in sausage meat.

"It also goes into sauces, chutneys, [and] friends around here that have shops and things use it in cakes and things."

Mr Emery himself said he liked it with ice cream or dark chocolate.

Close up view of yellow bush tomatoes.
Bush tomato is often sold as crushed up powder, and commonly used to preserve sausage meat.

Supplied: Max Emery