Produce report: September 25
When buying cucumbers, look for those that are bright and even-coloured with firm, shiny skin. Dullness and yellowing indicate age. That plastic wrap covering is there for a purpose: It prevents the soft skin from damage and the cucumber from dehydrating.
Store cucumbers in the warmest part of the fridge, on the shelf near the door (not in the vegetable chiller). Alternatively, leave them at room temperature but keep them away from bananas, tomatoes and melons which all produce high amounts of ethylene to which cucumbers are particularly sensitive. Ethylene will speed up their ripening and spoiling. Eat cucumbers, especially refrigerated ones, within about three days.
Salads aside, firm lettuces like cos are great barbecued as a side dish, especially when you have a glut over summer. Halve them lengthwise, brush with oil, season and place them, cut side down, on the grill until slightly charred and warmed through. See Warren Elwin’s grilled lettuce recipe (photo above).
Lettuces, rocket and watercress can be stir-fried too. Broccolini, often mistakenly thought of as young broccoli, is good buying and is another stir-fry star. A hybrid of kale and broccoli, it has a sweeter flavour than broccoli.
Supply should be increasing soon for local courgettes. The season runs until May. Brussels sprout lovers will probably have had a good feed over the winter months and it is the last chance to bag these baby cabbages. The North Otago season finishes next month.
Look out for new season raspberries to add to springtime desserts.
Whitebait season has started all over the country. It closes on November 30. Peter Gordon’s best-ever flourless whitebait fritter and his deep-fried whitebait alternative.