Introducing vegan Australian BBQ 'meat' made from watermelon

An Australian watermelon farmer was caught unawares when his vegan watermelon ham, inspired by Ducks Eatery in New York, went viral this week after naming the dish, the ‘Wham’. But this is more than the Aussie farmer who gained unexpected notoriety Down Under. It is an international travel story with a friendship at its heart.

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Watermelon 'ham'. Image by Tim O’Leary

The watermelon farmer – Terry O'Leary from Paramagh Farming in Chinchilla, Queensland’s melon farming capital – actually cooked the Wham on his BBQ over Christmas under the guidance of Canadian chef Katie Thom. Katie was one of the many backpackers, who after working on the O’Leary family farm back in 2006, had returned (again) to say hello in the Australian summer.

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Chinchilla is the melon-farming captial of Queensland. Image by Tim O’Leary

Working on a farms in Australia is not just about making some cash to keep travelling. Some farmers want their travellers to have a unique Australian experience, the kind of thing money can’t buy. “I can’t speak for all farmers but we genuinely try to show our working holiday-makers a good time. We’ll often go horse-riding, camping on the river, or just simple things like watching a mob of kangaroos eating grass and hopping along a field at the start of our day”.

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The watermelon farm in Queensland. Image by Tim O’Leary

Conditions vary on Australian farms, not everyone is cooking up vegan watermelons on a watermelon farm in the outback on the Western Darling Downs. Terry recommends that Working Holiday Makers look into the “Fair Farms” certification program from Australia’s Fruit & Vegetable Industry. It sees farmers being audited to make sure the conditions on farms are safe and the working agreements are legitimate. It’s a new program developed by farmers to make sure backpackers aren’t taken advantage of when they go to Australia to travel and work. It’s expected that more and more farms will be getting onboard with Fair Farms certification over time.

So how does the Wham – a dish made in Chinchilla by an Aussie farmer and a backpacker returning from Canada – actually taste like you ask? “It’s a bit indescribable,” Terry told us.  There’s the very smoky/salty BBQ flavour, with the gentle undertones of watermelon coming through. I reckon if you sat someone down blindfolded, they would never guess its watermelon!”.

If you’re thinking of pursuing a Working Holiday Makers visa in Australia, read this.