Graham’s baked apple recipe has been in the Mason family for about 100 years. Its origins have been lost with the passing of time, but it remains a favourite with the current generation when cooked by his wife Alison or mother Thelma.
“Quite often I’ll even do it myself,” Graham said.
“It’s good for dads as it’s something easy to do for dessert. The secret is to have the right sort of apples – Granny Smith or Pink Lady™
Best eaten with ice-cream and cream, the recipe is another reminder for third-generation grower Graham of his family’s history in the Adelaide Hills, where his grandfather Cecil established the orchard in 1912.
As a baby, Graham’s playpen was an apple bin during the busy harvest and packing time, and when he was older he used to play in the orchard.
“I’ve been here all my life and I started working here before I left school,” Graham said.
Graham, his brother Stephen and their cousin Noel now run the 20 hectare operation, while his father Harleigh and Uncle Ashley are also still involved. Up to 25 people are employed during harvest.
The family established a rootstock nursery at the property to ensure supply, and the orchard produces Rosy Glow, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples. Rosy Glow is their biggest producer – not surprising when you consider it was discovered by the Masons. A mutation in a Pink Lady™ tree at the orchard in 1997 was developed and has since gained worldwide acceptance.
“It was very exciting,” Graham said of the discovery. “Mutations are not common and usually they are a step backwards, so to have a mutation that’s a step forward is quite rare.”
Birds, particularly rainbow lorikeets, are the orchard’s number one pest, but imported apples could also present a threat to business.
“The imports have landed here right at the tail end of our old season and before our new season has really got under way,” Graham said.
“There will be consumers who are purely price-driven and there will be people who are loyal to our industry. I would like to think consumers will prefer to buy the Australian product.”
Whatever happens – and despite his 60-hour weeks and an ongoing battle with the State Government bureaucracy over water restrictions - Graham sees the Mason family’s future in the industry as a long one.
“To be in the industry you must be passionate about producing premium quality fruit and enjoy the satisfaction of producing good crops,” he said.
“You’ve got to have a love for what you do. It’s not an easy life but it has its rewards.”