Produce report: July 3
Thanks to that autumn rain, this winter has been a pricey one for cooks looking to put a variety of veges on the dinner table. Fingers crossed those days are nearing an end, with spinach and silverbeet looking affordable again.
Spinach may be milder than the more robustly flavoured silverbeet but the two can be used interchangeably in most cases. When steaming, it’s not necessary to add water to either. The moisture clinging to the leaves after washing should be enough. The delicate stems of spinach can be left on when cooking (remove them if you are shredding the spinach to eat raw).
The tough, white stems of silverbeet should be separated from the leaves before cooking. However they need not be discarded. Using the stalks will make that bunch of silverbeet an even better buy. Split them vertically if they are very large, chop, and steam for about five minutes before adding the leaves. Alternatively finely chop and saute the stalks gently (for about 10 minutes) and add them to a pie like the Greek spanakopita, or to a quiche or frittata.
Try popping the raw stalks into a vegetable stock or stir-fry them as a separate dish. Left whole and steamed until tender, they will make a great addition to a cheesy winter gratin.
Large silverbeet leaves, meanwhile, make good, healthy wraps to enclose meat or fish. See Warren Elwin’s fish parcels.
Store both spinach and silverbeet in a ziplock bag in the fridge so the leaves do not wilt. Kept this way, they should last for about five days. Silverbeet and spinach both have high levels of pro-vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate and antioxidants among other nutrients.
Cauliflowers, though hardly a bargain, are also inviting and good quality now — they are firm, white and fresh. And a comforting thought, a big cauliflower goes a long way.
Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, B group and K vitamins, phytochemicals and anti-inflammatories. Still thinking root-to-stem eating, remember not to waste the delicately flavoured leaves when you bring your cauli home. Chop off the very tough bottoms then roast the fresh green leaves (discard any yellowing ones) or add them to dishes where you’d use another leafy green.
The colour and freshness of those leaves closest to the head is also a good buying guide. Cauliflower should be stored in plastic bags in the fridge. The florets can be blanched quickly and frozen for later use in soups or purees. If you make cauliflower rice, the raw vege can be frozen in batches in sealed plastic bags and microwaved straight from the freezer or defrosted and roasted.
North Island grapefruit are appearing in stores (and turning yellow in the garden) now.
The New Zealand variety, known as poor man’s orange, is a sweetish hybrid that’s thought to be related to the tangelo. Like its citrus relatives, grapefruit is high in vitamin C.
Though it is also thought to be good at helping lower cholesterol, grapefruit does interfere with many prescribed medications, so check before you tuck into the bagful your neighbour has left at the door. Grapefruit will be in season until October-November so there’s plenty of time to get your fill. For recipes, see our grapefruit recipe collection.