Produce report March 5: Fruit and vege buys of the week
Those of us who live in the North Island are suddenly all talking cauliflower — they’ve been $10 and up for the last week, $6 for a half! Cauliflower and other leafy veges, think spinach, lettuce and silverbeet, have succumbed to the high humidity of late summer. (At home, our chard plants simply refused to get up off the soil and stand to attention.)
Jerry Prendergast, president of pan industry body United Fresh, says the recent weather — rain, followed by hot sunny days with humid nights — has basically cooked the product and we’ll be paying for it over the next few weeks. “Many retailers are just covering their GST and maybe the cost of freight if you look at what they are paying and what they are selling cauliflowers for now,” he says. However, he says this will be a temporary problem for consumers if we keep cooler evenings going forward. “It is normally crops one-four weeks away from harvest that are affected,” he adds. “Earlier product won’t have bulked up enough.”
The new season kumara harvest is underway and prices are slightly lower with the remainder of last year’s crop still in supermarkets. Major rains in Dargaville hit growers badly in 2017.
Store your precious and highly nutritious kumara (lots of phytonutrients, potassium, vitamin C and niacin) with care — they bruise easily. Like potatoes, they should be kept in a cool, well ventilated place. Hate to say it but higher temperatures make them inclined to sprout. However, the fridge is no saviour either. It makes kumara shrivel and can cause a hard core to form that refuses to soften on cooking.
Do as Jerry suggests and diversify if you don’t want to pay higher prices - make a waldorf salad instead of a lettuce one (try Viva’s version with poached chicken breasts added to the apple and celery base). Despite the devastation seen in Nelson orchards following Cyclone Gita, we won’t be seeing price hikes with pears and apples. That’s because there too many other growing regions able to meet the demand. We are starting to think apple and pear cakes and desserts as well, replacing the stonefruit which is still in store but which is slowly trickling away. Apricots are pricey again.
One of the easiest but truly comforting ways with apples which could be breakfast, could be dessert, comes from Nigel Slater’s cookbook Tender Volume II: A Cook’s Guide to the Fruit Garden. It’s called Early autumn apples on hot toast and is a great recipe to have up your sleeve. It makes a caramelised apple topping for 2 slices of toast. This is how Nigel does it:
1 Quarter 4 small dessert apples, core them, but leave the skin on. Slice the apples thickly, then toss them with a little lemon juice. 2 Melt 50g butter in a shallow pan. Before it froths, stir in 2 lightly heaped tablespoons caster sugar and leave to bubble for a minute or two. Add the apples, letting them cook for five minutes or so over a moderate heat till soft. Stir in a handful of raisins or sultanas and a knifepoint of ground cinnamon. 3 Have 2 slices of toast, made from brioche, nut and raisin bread or a milk loaf, hot and ready. As soon as the apples are soft and lightly coated in caramel, tip them over the toast. If it’s dessert, top with thick cream.