Produce report: April 17
For tamarillo fans, the cooling weather has some real lip-smacking appeal. Along with autumn’s persimmons and new season kiwifruit, these burgundy egg-shaped beauties are starting to fill produce bins now. The season will peak in July and August.
Tamarillos, related to the potato, tomato and capsicum, are low in fat and carbohydrates but high in potassium. They are a source of vitamins A, B6 and C and also contain vitamin E and thiamine, copper and magnesium. Super-versatile as well, they are just as good in savoury as sweet dishes. Jan Bilton, author of the Tamarillo Cookbook, loves them in salsas (especially with Vietnamese mint) for venison, chicken or pork and she adds them to casseroles too or roasts them to accompany meats.
Choose firm fruit that is heavy for its size. When ripe, tamarillos should be fragrant and yield slightly to finger pressure; the stems should be black, not green. Fortunately tamarillos will ripen, if necessary, at room temperature and afterwards will last for about a week in the fruit bowl, or a fortnight if refrigerated in a plastic bag. Tamarillos can be frozen whole — unpeeled or peeled — for three months, or slice and sprinkle them with sugar and freeze in an airtight container for up to a year. Otherwise, try pureeing them and freezing that to use later in winter puddings.
Sure, they can be something of an acquired taste but even long-time tam haters may have a change of heart if they sample the fruit after it has been macerated. It does take time but the old-fashioned technique is easily done. Ray McVinnie says macerating tamarillos in sugar for 12 hours transforms them, giving them a rich, complex, earthy but sweet flavour. Here’s how he goes about it for his tamarillo sponge puddings with homemade custard: Put 5 large tamarillos, pointed ends nicked with a sharp knife tip, into a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over them until submerged. Wait 2 minutes then drain and cool under cold running water. Drain then peel off the skins and slice the tamarillos about 1cm thick. Place in a bowl and add 70g caster sugar. Mix well, cover and reserve in the fridge for 12 hours.
For more treats see baked tamarillos with honey and red wine, below, and our tamarillo recipe collection.
Up until now they have been imported only, but Farro Fresh has just started selling New Zealand pomegranates sourced from the grower in Gisborne. Impressive! Sprinkle the arils over salads and desserts or on top of your breakfast grain bowls for a tangy sweet burst.
While at Farro, check out the new Phoenix oyster mushroom growing kits in a box. From Urban Farmer, the mushrooms grow in recycled coffee grounds. And, no, they don’t taste like coffee.
The price and quality of green vegetables continue to be affected by all the rain that has swept the country over recent weeks. However, broccoli is affordable and celery and buttercup squash are good buying.
Look out for jerusalem artichokes (called sunchokes in North America) which will be in store in the next few weeks. The season runs from May until September.
Delphiniums and chrysanthemums are the best flower buys. As well as making a bold statement, chrysanths are also great keepers if the water in the vase is changed regularly.
Recipe by Jan Bilton