Produce report: December 4
New season sweetcorn is arriving in store – it is sweet and delicious too. Sweetcorn can be eaten raw but it’s one of those vegetables that is even better for you when cooked – barbecued, boiled or microwaved (the easiest method – just keep the husks on and cook for a just a couple of minutes on 100 per cent power).
Cooking this gluten-free cereal releases a phytochemical called ferulic acid which helps protect the body from cancer. Ferulic acid is present in small amounts in most fruit and vegetables, but corn has it in abundance. Sweetcorn is also very high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that promote healthy vision, and there’s zinc, iron, selenium, potassium, vitamin C and some B group vitamins in there too. And, while corn grows in varying shades of cream and gold, the colour doesn’t matter when it comes to sweetness. However, the darker the colour the more carotenoids there will be and carotenoids act as antioxidants in the body. Lastly, don’t hold back on the butter or olive oil at serving time. Carotenoids are fat soluble and better absorbed where there is fat or oil in the meal.
When buying, look for fresh green husks with yellow/brown tassels. The kernels should be even and plump. Refrigerate the cobs immediately after purchase with the husks on, if possible, and eat within one to three days as corn’s sugar content quickly turns to starch. It can also be frozen. See here for Ray McVinnie's video on how to prepare sweetcorn.
Cherries are joining summer’s new arrivals in store and the price reflects it. These festive drupes will not ripen after harvesting so look for glossy, concentrated colour and firm fruit, preferably with bright green stems still attached. They will keep for about a week refrigerated in a plastic bag but will deteriorate quickly at room temperature. Do not wash them until you are ready to eat them. Cherries freeze very well, for about a year. Wash and pit them or keep them whole, with stalks attached. Spread in a single layer on a tray and, when frozen, store in sealed plastic bags.
Broccoli, cos, buttercrunch and iceberg lettuces, cucumber, tomatoes, strawberries and lemons are good buying. Yellow-fleshed peaches are becoming more plentiful and apricots and yellow-fleshed plums are starting to arrive now too.
Before you fill up your vases with Christmas lilies, take advantage of beautiful peonies. If they are slow to open, cut the stems and place in hot water or place them in a warm place in your home. And if they are opening too fast, slow it down by placing them in cold water with a few added ice blocks.