Produce report: May 1
Over the next few months look out for Jerusalem artichokes on your travels around farmers’ markets and in specialty stores and greengrocers (Farro has them already). They are always fairly scarce in supermarkets.
These small tubers will be with us until September and despite the name they are not an artichoke at all but a member of the sunflower family (they are called sunchokes in North America).
If you haven’t eaten them before, expect a mushroomy, nutty, artichoke-ish taste and a sweet crunch that makes them very appealing in autumn salads — slice ultra-thin or peel into ribbons and drop immediately into a lemony vinaigrette (they discolour when exposed to air). A sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts is very good on top too.
Jerusalem artichokes also make great soups, are lovely sliced and sauteed in butter, are good cooked whole around your roast and can be boiled to make an elegant puree. Their white flesh is a good source of iron and thiamine.
When buying, look for firm artichokes that are not too knobbly — they will be easier to peel. Scrape with a teaspoon rather than a peeler. Alternatively, don’t bother peeling them at all. Simply scrub with a vege brush.
Unlike most starchy vegetables, the main carbohydrate here is inulin which is similar to fructose and which provides the sweetness. Inulin does have a downside for some folks though. Humans lack the enzymes to digest it and this gives rise to the only negative thing you ever hear about Jerusalem artichokes — they can cause flatulence. If we haven’t lost you at this point and you purchase these delicious little guys, you can store them for about a week in the vegetable crisper in the fridge and about 10 days in a paper bag in a dark place. Do not wash them until you intend to use them.
All that rain in March and April continues to result in lower quality, more expensive green veges. That said, cabbage is looking good so it’s time to make coleslaw. Savoy (the cabbage with the crinkly leaves) the smoother drumhead (our most common cabbage) and its pretty red cousin are all good buying now, although, as usual, the lesser-grown red is more expensive. Though all cabbages are a good source of vitamin C, red cabbage fans can console themselves with the thought that their favourite has loads more C, along with vitamin B, than the green ones. Like other brassicas, cabbages also contain many phytonutrients.
Delaney Mes slices both red and green very finely and combines them with seeds and nuts in this cumin-spiked slaw. It works very well as part of a Mexican feast.
As far as fruit goes, new season tamarillos are still trickling into stores. Feijoas, mariri red apples, beurre bosc pears and kiwifruit are cheap, plentiful and good quality. Ditto limes ... while the going is good, use limes in everything!