Produce report: February 6
Look out for the arrival of black doris plums. An oldie but a goodie, this popular home orchard fruit is sweet, juicy and full of flavour, with just a little tartness. The stone comes out easily so the black doris is great for baking and bottling, in jams and sauces as well as for eating fresh. Out of season, too, it’s the plum of our childhood, served by Mum on a school night, straight from the can with a scoop of icecream. However February is the time for fresh plums.
Angela Casley from Viva's individual plum and almond tarts are impressive but are easy to make with bought puff pastry sheets. You can swap out the plums for other stonefruit if you wish.
Like other stonefruit, plums should be stored at room temperature, especially if they need to be ripened a little. After that they will keep better in the fridge, in the vegetable crisper. Do store them away from strong smelling foods as they are liable to take on other odours.
Local citrus stocks have dwindled in favour of imported fruits. Look out for pomelos from the US. Like a rounder, super-sized grapefruit, they are wonderful segmented (cut away the membranes) and added to Thai-style salads. Ripe when pale green to yellow, they have very thick pith so peeling takes a bit of effort. However, your reward will be refreshing grapefruit-flavoured segments without the usual bitterness. The peel of pomelos can be used in marmalade if you are feeling extra adventurous.
If you’re lucky (or you frequent Farro Fresh) you may be able to pick up a punnet of loganberries now — a high-vitamin cross between a blackberry and raspberry. Blackberries, meanwhile, although always in shortish supply, will be with us for a few more weeks. Blueberries will be here until May. Store them in the fridge and wash just before eating.
Vegetable buys of the week are sweetcorn, iceberg lettuces and tomatoes (okay, they’re technically a fruit). This Mum's tomato relish recipe from Jan Bilton (photo below) will be a family go-to throughout the year.
Look out for the more irregularly shaped outdoor varieties and the oval acid-free tomatoes that have firmer flesh and less juice. Store at room temperature away from sunlight and they will continue to ripen if a little green. Refrigeration makes tomatoes less flavoursome and the flesh mealy. However, should you find yourself with too many ripe ones and tomato sauce is not on the agenda, the fridge will stop them spoiling.
Take them out and bring them to room temperature for an hour before eating. Tomatoes freeze well and can be used later for pasta sauces: Plunge them into boiling water and then into ice cold water. Slip off the skins, halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds (so you won’t have a too-thin sauce), drain in a colander to remove excess liquid and pack in ziplock bags, removing as much air as possible.
While in the vegetable department or at your local market, look out for orange squash — roast it and add to salads.