Produce report February 12: The week's best fruit and vege buys
Basil should be prolific in the garden now if those darned caterpillars haven’t beaten you to it. It’s the perfect partner to all those cheap and flavourful tomatoes. Picking basil will also encourage more to grow.
If buying, rather than harvesting basil, keep it at room temperature on the bench, out of the sun, with trimmed stems sitting in a glass of water. Basil doesn’t like to be refrigerated – it can easily turn black.
Remember that basil is best added either raw into a dish or at the end of cooking. If you’ve got a glut and don’t want to turn yours into pesto, the leaves can be pureed and frozen for later use. Remove them from the stem, then wash and gently dry. Puree one cup leaves with about one tablespoon olive oil in a food processor, then freeze the slurry in ice cube trays. The oil will stop the basil turning black when it is frozen. Tip the cubes into a ziplock bag to store.
For more see Ray McVinnie’s Know Your Basil.
As well as sweet basil (our most common type), look out for Thai basil with its purplish elongated leaves. It copes with cooking temperatures better than the sweet type and has a distinctive sweet liquorice-like taste. As its name suggests, it is perfect in Asian stir-fries and curries.
4 ways with basil
Passionfruit continues to trickle into stores – it will be most plentiful in April so there’s a way to go.
Keep smooth-skinned passionfruit at room temperature until they start to wrinkle — when they are at their sweetest — then store them in the fridge. Keep the fruit as dry as possible.
Passionfruit adds tart complexity to a fruit salad and is practically a must-have for the top of pavlovas or cheesecakes, along with making a lovely fresh icing for cakes.
If you have a prolific vine at home, keep Jan Bilton’s method of preserving the pulp handy over the next few months as your fruit ripens. Here’s how she does it: Either preserve the pulp by freezing it in ice cube trays — add three tablespoons of sugar to each cup of pulp. Alternatively, combine one cup of passionfruit pulp with one cup of sugar and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a sterilised jar and seal.
Always a favourite, make a batch of Viva's yo-yo biscuits and sandwich together with passionfruit icing.
Imported pineapples are very affordable too.