Produce report: May 29
We’re eating our colours this week – starting with orange, our go-to shade from the produce department. Satsuma mandarins are very good buying and eating, however it’s the persimmon which is the week’s standout, affordable fruit pick. A great addition to a cheeseboard, persimmons are a good source of beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, along with potassium and fibre. Try them in Kathy Paterson’s persimmon cake, flavoured for winter with a little calvados or brandy, walnuts and cinnamon.
In the vegetable section, it’s hard to go past buttercup squash. There is only another month to go until the buttercup season ends and they are sweet, nutty and dry, perfect for baking, steaming or microwaving. Warren Elwin roasts his and adds the mash to his American style buttercup pie, photographed above.
Flashes of dark green would ruin your orange pie filling but, usually, it’s not necessary to peel buttercups – the hard skin is entirely edible and is a great source of nutritional iron. If you must peel, do it after roasting when the task will be so much easier. As an alternative, The New Zealand Buttercup Council advises covering halved squash with aluminium foil (shiny side in) when baking – that way the skin will stay soft like the flesh. That flesh is super nutritious too: Just 200g will cover your vitamin C and vitamin A requirements for the day. It is also rich in calcium and one of the best sources of beta carotene (just like carrots, another of this week’s best buys). When buying any squash or pumpkin look for firm heavy ones that are shiny – that indicates maturity and maturity means sweetness.
Store whole buttercups in a cool dark place but, when cut, cover and refrigerate. If your cut wedge grows a little mould on the surface all is not lost. Like other hard vegetables, including carrots, kumara, swede, cabbage and capsicums, pumpkin and squash are too dense for the mould to spread quickly so as long as you cut away about 1cm from the affected area you can still use the rest.
Buttercup squash are believed to have been cultivated by the Incas and eaten in the Americas over 5,000 years ago. Also from South America, new-season yams (known in the Andes as oca) are arriving in stores now. Orange (yellow and pink), these sweet tubers add variety to roast dinners but can be steamed, microwaved and sliced for stir-fries. Do not peel.
Remember, if you are reading an American cookbook and it talks about yams, it is referring to vegetables similar to our kumara, not what we call yams in New Zealand. Yams contain useful amounts of vitamin A, B6, fibre and potassium. Thinking flavour combos, they like a bit of brown sugar or honey, ginger, orange or lemon juice and a toss in melted butter.
How to: Roast buttercup squash to use in recipes
Wipe clean, cut them in half, deseed and lightly brush both sides in oil. In a preheated 210C oven, place halves face down on a sheet of baking paper so they steam as they roast. Cook for about 30-40 minutes until a fork pushes through easily, Turn flesh side up and roast a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with a clean tea towel and cool.