Produce Report February 26: The week's best fruit and vege buys
Break out the tequila! There’s not long to go until limes become a casual purchase again, rather than one requiring some pretty serious consideration, as has been the way over summer. The local lime season begins in March and runs through until September so it’s margaritas and a whole lot of Mexican deliciousness for all.
Remember, to get the most out of them, a quick 10-second zap in the microwave will yield twice the amount of juice. And use that zest – the flavour is concentrated there.
Limes are harvested several times in a year and the fruit picked when dark green. As it ripens and lightens to yellow, it becomes juicier. However, if you want a more acidic, tart taste then a green lime is what you should choose. The Tahitian (or Bearss) lime is most commonly grown in New Zealand and is nearly seedless and sweeter than other types which include the Mexican (key) lime and Southeast Asia’s kaffir limes. It is the leaves and rind of the kaffir, of course, which are most used; the limes themselves being too dry for juice.
It can be tricky knowing when to harvest your own limes so the best bet is to gently twist a lime from the tree and cut it open. Too little juice means it is still unripe.
There’s still a good variety of late summer berries out there and a mountain of stonefruit, including an appearance by that great latecomer — the Black Boy peach. Actually, around six varieties of red-fleshed peaches are known as the Black Boy which originated in France a couple of hundred years ago. Sweet and fragrant, they are a juicy delight once all that furriness has been rubbed away or the skin peeled. Look for them at some supermarkets and specialty stores and at your local farmers’ market.
Still on lookout mode – kiwiberries are in store now. These smooth-skinned babies offer loads of vitamin C and look especially striking added to a fruit salad or on top of a cake or pavlova. Kiwiberries should be stored in the fridge, and they are ripe when they yield to the touch. Available until mid-April, we’ve got plans for them atop Kathy Paterson’s Gorgeous lemon cake.
We are picking the first of the figs at home, beating the birds to them although they are not as sweet as the fruit that’s still to ripen. It is fingers crossed for those of us in the North Island over the next few weeks – figs need plenty of water and sun during the growing seasons but the fruit splits in the rain.
If your cherry tomatoes are also in danger of splitting or you’ve got loads of them, it’s time to take action and preserve them now. Try Warren Elwin’s passata sauce (below). As Warren says, though traditionally made from uncooked tomatoes that have been pureed and strained, his passata is quickly cooked, preserving colourful cherry tomatoes in a vibrant fresh sauce. Makes enough to store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week or freeze in serving portions to use for pasta or wherever a hit of tomato sauce is required.
If yours are larger-sized types, try Kathy Paterson’s bottled tomatoes in their own sauce, recipe here.
Tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, sweetcorn, round beans, green cabbages and capsicums are good buying. Avocados are creeping up in price. Local gala apples and imported mangoes are our fruit buys of the week.