Produce report: March 13
At last, chillies that don’t cost $1 each! The season is just beginning, so head to your local farmers’ market and you’ll nab a bagful for a couple of dollars.
Capsicums and courgettes are cheap buying too but, while they may be with us all year, they won’t be so plentiful or affordable after April. Outdoor tomatoes join the bounty. Pick up bags of plums, peaches and nectarines before they disappear at the end of this month — it’s time to get into the kitchen to freeze and preserve for later.
Chillies are in season from April to June. Store at room temperature (they may dry out but they will be okay) or throw them into a zip-lock bag and freeze for leaner, more expensive, times. In general, the smaller the chilli, the hotter it will be. Narrow, dark and pointy all indicate heat too. The intensity also changes as they ripen.
The most common chillies in New Zealand are Asian green cayenne peppers or red Mexican ones. Jalapenos are also often grown here — they are those rounder, chubby looking types you find sliced on your Mexican meals. Red jalapenos have a tough skin so are more often cooked into pickles or dried.
Rocket is back in decent quantities in supermarkets but, along with baby spinach, the quality has been variable of late and the shelf life lower, thanks to rain and humidity across the North Island. Celery and parsnips are good buying now.
Though you may already have been harvesting them in your garden, mail order figs should be available about now. Check out Te Mata Figs in Hawke’s Bay, which couriers them across the country. Figs are one of your digestive system’s best friends, fresh or dried. They contain an enzyme called ficin that helps calm your gut. They are mildly laxative and are a rich source of potassium, fibre, iron and calcium along with antioxidants. We have been discussing figs for a while now in the Produce Report — that’s because there are early varieties available in January and February and a later crop in April and May.
Look out for outdoor grapes. Sometimes seen in supermarkets, they are more likely to be found at your local greengrocer’s or, again, at a farmers’ market. These perfumed beauties leave the hothouse ones for dead and can also be bought sometimes from roadside stalls, especially in areas where there are vineyards, a no-brainer really. Store in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in paper towels. Wash them just before use.
Preserving the bounty