Produce report March 12: Fruit and vege buys of the week
It’s a bittersweet time when feijoas start to fill the produce bins. While practically all of us love them, they do mean we cannot pretend it is summer any longer. We’ll just have to scoop out their flesh and enjoy our warm-so-far autumn or add them to cakes, jams and then crumbles when the weather finally chills. There’s no rush: feijoas will be here until June and already their price is starting to lower. With good levels of fibre and vitamin C, one fruit provides nearly one-quarter of an adult’s daily needs.
When buying, look for firm ones with unblemished skin. Feijoas are perfect to eat when the jellied sections are clear. If brown or grey, they are over-ripe and, if white, they will need two or three days at room temperature. Afterwards, store them in the fridge but use as soon as possible.
Feijoas fall from the tree when ripe but they do bruise easily so harvesting them when they are just about to fall (when they are easy to pick) is the best option. Fruit that’s picked too early won’t ripen fully. Feijoas freeze well. Either cut them in half and scoop out the flesh or freeze the pulp or puree in ice cubes to turn into smoothies. The fruit can also be frozen whole; peel after defrosting.
Your garden may not be able to accommodate the planting of such a rewarding hedge but feijoas will grow in a pot for many years as long as they are well fed and watered.
To make feijoa iceblocks, remove the skin from 4 feijoas and from 100g fresh pineapple. Blend fruits together with the juice of one orange. Put into iceblock moulds and freeze. Recipe by Warren Elwin
Across the country, those old walnut trees should just about be ready for the picking. Walnut season begins in March and continues through to late April. According to Uncle Joe’s walnut grower Jenny Horwell the main thing is to get the nuts off the ground as quickly as possible after they fall to get the outside shell dried.
When buying walnuts, Jenny says, the inside of the walnut kernel should be a creamy colour, not opaque, which indicates old nuts and rancidity. And the outside skin should have a shine, and not be scuffed or bruised. “With walnuts, as soon as you expose the kernel to air and light — cracking open the shell — the good fats, omega 3s, start to break down. The more scuffing of the kernel, the worse this is. This starts the process to rancidity.” The freezer is best to keep the poly and monounsaturated fats of walnuts and hazelnuts in good order. In-shell nuts require an airy, damp-free situation.
Hazelnuts, harvested in March in the Marlborough/Nelson region, later the further south you go and in Canterbury, are hardier than walnuts. They don’t contain omega 3s but have omega 6, with good antioxidants in the skin of the kernel. They also contain vitamin E which means hazelnuts won’t go rancid as quickly as walnuts but storage in the freezer is still a good idea.
We’re big fans of smitten apples which are in store now. Look out for braeburns soon - they are harvested late March. As well as keeping very well (they are sold until December), the Braeburn is great for cooking.
It's the last call for peaches and watermelon; both are about to disappear until next summer. And there’s just another month to go until the sweetcorn season finishes so get your fill of these. Sweetcorn is one of the good buys of the week, alongside capsicums and round beans. Leafy greens and lettuces are expensive, thanks to the recent humid weather. Prices of broccoli have hiked as well but it is such a nutritious vegetable that an extra dollar per head is worth it in my book. Cauliflower? What cauliflower? Those pricey devils have disappeared at my local supermarket. Opt for their relative, the brussels sprout instead. It is an affordable choice now. Try them shredded in a salad while the weather is still warm.