Produce report: September 11
The first of the globe artichokes will be with us this month, with greater quantities in stores and farmers’ markets from October until December. The season finishes in February.
Artichokes are a real treat, a type of thistle that’s picked when the flower buds reach baby golf ball, right up to large tennis ball, sizes. To prepare one, the stalk is trimmed or removed completely, along with the tough outer leaves and the furry choke hiding the heart – the best bit to eat. With small artichokes, the choke can be eaten too and the tender leaves may be nibbled on raw, dipped into a little melted butter. Otherwise artichokes can be steamed, boiled or microwaved. Par-boiled and then cut in half, they can be smeared with oil and grilled or barbecued. They are also delicious stuffed.
Artichokes will discolour after cutting so smear the surfaces with a little lemon juice or drop them into acidulated water.
Preparation can seem a bit fiddly if you are new to it but it’s worth mastering what is actually an easy technique. Ray McVinnie shows how in our video here.
Artichokes are a good source of folate and some other B-group vitamins and fibre. Buy ones that feel heavy for their size, with tightly closed leaves, and store them in the fridge in a vented plastic bag, or in the vegetable crisper. They are delicate so handle carefully and eat within two to three days.
Chives should also be starting to flourish in the garden. Although available in stores all year round, they are most plentiful from September until May. They are wonderful with chicken, in salads and egg dishes. Add them to cooking just before serving.
It is harvest time for broad beans, called fava beans in the US. That's them, growing below. A scarcity in supermarkets, you may, however, find them at farmers’ markets.
They should be podded unless very young (around finger sized) when the whole thing can be eaten. Older ones, where you can feel the beans along the length of the pod, should be podded and then slipped out of their skins as well after cooking. When buying, look for firm, crisp pods without any softness or gaps. Broad beans are a great source of protein and carbohydrates alongside vitamins A, B1 and B2.
Pick up a bunch of celery next time you are looking for an ingredient to add to a salad or stir-fry. Opt for a tight bunch with bright leaves, and stems that will snap easily. The leaves aren’t there just for show; they make a great pesto (it’s better to buy a full head of celery for this) or add the chopped, inside pale ones to a salad.
Do not plonk your bunch straight into the fridge in an open plastic bag when you get it home. It will wilt in no time. Wrapping celery tightly in tinfoil and storing it in the vegetable crisper will keep it fresh for a few weeks but do ensure it is re-wrapped every time you use some. Celery can also be stored upright and whole in the fridge in a few centimetres of water but this can be a rather bulky method and the water needs to be changed regularly. Otherwise, keep it in a ziplock bag. It does not need to be washed first (but obviously is a good idea before you use it). It will keep for at least a fortnight. If you don’t use much celery, it will also freeze well to be added later to cooked dishes.
Avocados are still fluctuating a little in price – although judging by the bags on offer at roadside stalls in the north there is ample supply. Get out the corn chips!
There are still healthy piles of tamarillos around, although the season reached its peak last month.