Produce report February 19: Best fruit and vege buys
Royal galas herald the start of apple season and they are in stores now, awaiting the family lunchboxes. They are good buying too. A cross between a golden delicious and kids orange, these sweet and crunchy babies, like all apples, should be stored in the fridge.
At home, it’s time to get out the jam pots and preserving jars. Make use of golden queen and other yellow-fleshed peaches and look out for peacherines — the late-season hybrid between a peach and nectarine.
Classic golden queens make the best bottled fruit. An old variety, they do bruise very easily but the flavour more than makes up for the careful handling required. Eat them, bake with them and bottle them while you can. Kathy Paterson shows how to do it here, along with tips on sterilising jars and the overflow bottling method.
Cherries have all but departed and soon apricots will be on the way out too until next summer. It’s also sayonara to strawberries. Meanwhile, there are still local melons to be enjoyed and imported mangoes, here for late summer desserts and salsas (I am always on about salsa but it is the making of so many, otherwise ordinary, midweek meals).
There’s still a whole range of plums available: black doris if you have a tree in your garden, and omegas, a dark-fleshed great eating plum. It joins black amber (with yellow flesh) and the mild fortune and greengages. The plum season finishes in March.
Chillies, while still expensive in the shops, may be ready for harvesting in your garden. Ours got some nasty leaf problem this year so I am heading to Avondale market for a cheaper-than-supermarket supply. A big bag popped into the freezer keeps us going for months. Capsaicin, produced in hot peppers, is the plant’s natural defence to stress and, when lacking water, the plant produces more capsaicin and the chillies get hotter.
By contrast, the spring onions are looking great in my small plot and we are harvesting them all - they are shading our cos lettuces. We’re making a spring onion, ginger and coriander dipping sauce to serve with an Asian roast chicken. See Jan Bilton’s Crispy Cantonese roast chicken recipe. It’s one of the dishes she recommends as part of a Chinese New Year banquet. Celebrations started on the 16th but they go for a few weeks so get out the roasting dishes now.
Serve your chook with a stir-fry made from affordable round beans. Try this from Warren Elwin: Top and tail some fresh green beans and slice in half on the bias. Combine beans with 1 clove crushed garlic, 2cm knob grated ginger, finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 tsp sesame seeds. Heat 1 Tbsp sesame oil in a wok until smoking, then flash-fry beans for 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and a little lemon juice. Get the recipe here.
While peaches are still around (the season finishes in March) fire up the barbie and make Geoff Scott’s satays with pork and peaches. Look for slightly firmer peaches, Geoff advises, they will be easier to handle and will hold their shape better when cooking. These can be made on either short or long bamboo satay sticks; the smaller ones make for perfect pass-around party food.