Produce report: May 22
It’s nearly time to say goodbye to local yen ben lemons and a big welcome back to the meyer, the most widely grown lemon in New Zealand.
The meyer’s arrival may signal the approach of winter but it also means we have access to sweeter, more juicy lemons until November. The meyer is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin, explaining why the yen ben is often called the true lemon. Thinner skinned, the YB is great for zest but it can be hard work squeezing them for juice.
Most of us are acutely aware of upping our citrus intake at this time of year but there is a lot more than vitamin C to be found in those yellow polished performers. For those people who suffer from indigestion or heartburn, the lemon can be a godsend. Put that packet of antacids down and try drinking lemon juice in a small amount of warm water around 20 minutes before a meal. According to nutritionist Mikki Williden it can help encourage stomach acid production. As Mikki says, most cases of heartburn or indigestion actually stem from too little stomach acid and not too much, as people assume.
For more, read here what Mikki has to say on the benefits of including lemons in your diet and for an easy but nutritious dessert whip up Warren Elwin's lemon rice pudding (photo below) and please the family on a wintry night soon.
Limes continue to be great buying now until September when the prices will start to rise again. It’s time, too, to buy satsuma mandarins. They are cheap, sweet and in good supply. Tamarillos are coming down in price at last. It’s a gradual thing as they get closer to their plentiful best in July and August.
When ripe, tamarillos should be fragrant and yield slightly to finger pressure and, remember, the stems should be black, not green. 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.
As far as veges go, agrias are good buying. Ring the changes and do as the Greeks do, transform those floury spuds into that silky (thank-you olive oil), thick and garlicky puree – skordalia. Very well mashed (or pushed through a ricer), the smooth paste is served as a dip with warm flatbreads or as a sauce, often with fish. Potatoes aside, skordalia can also be made with ground nuts or soaked stale bread. Next time friends pop in for drinks, try red onions with olives, skordalia and fried capers.
Keep an eye out for watercress. You may be lucky enough to harvest some yourself from a clean stream nearby but, for the rest of us, watercress will be more available in stores from May until December. The peppery leaves are wonderful in a crisp salad, especially to offset rich meats or cheese, and they make great soup. Very nutritious, watercress is high in vitamin K for bone health and has loads of vitamins C and A. However, it is very perishable so needs to be used soon after purchase or picking. When buying, look for very green leaves without any yellowing. The stalks can be eaten alongside the leaves, although the very big ones are probably better in a stock or soup. Refrigerate watercress in plastic bags or, if there are roots attached to your bunch, place in a jar of water on the bench.
- Heat 4 cups full cream milk with ⅓ cup caster sugar, half a split vanilla bean pod and the zest from 3 lemons. When hot, add 1¼ cups arborio rice. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring often, until the milk is mostly absorbed and the rice is tender (it should resemble a loose porridge).
- Remove from heat, season with freshly grated mace or nutmeg, cover and rest 5 minutes. Fold 1 cup whipped cream into the hot rice, spoon into bowls and season with grated lemon zest. You can also top with a syrup, such as quince or rhubarb. Serves 6. Recipe by Warren Elwin