Produce report April 2: Fruit and vege buys of the week
If you want to pick up a bag of chillies for the freezer, Avondale market on a Sunday morning is the place to visit over the next few weeks. Chilli prices are much lower here than in supermarkets.
The market at the weekend was heaving with watermelons but stallholders said it was likely to be the last week. Snake beans were on the way out too — the local ones would usually have disappeared by this time in autumn.
Cauliflower is still largely a no-show and if you find it in stores, you will be paying for it.
However, regular round green beans are looking good, as is broccoli which is still selling for a bit above what we’d normally expect to pay. If market shopping, look out for golfball-sized baby eggplants. Drop them into Thai curries like the one below, along with those green beans and local limes which are also good buying now.
For feijoa overs, the price is lowering everywhere.
If you are lucky in the next month you may be able to pick up some of the first cherry guavas. Although very early in the season, we bought a couple of punnets at Avondale which we poached after we’d scoffed handfuls fresh. Guavas make wonderful jelly and they are exceptionally high in vitamin C as well as being good sources of niacin and potassium. The trees make great hedges and the smaller red cherry ones also grow well in pots — we have two on our deck which are laden with fruit but they are still very green. Although never sold in abundance, you’ll find guavas mostly in markets, usually from about May until the end of July.
Tamarillos should be making an appearance in stores in the next few weeks. They will hit their peak in about July and August.
Because leafy veges are still in short supply, consider adding crunchy sweet fennel, with its mild anise flavour, to salads as well as braises. It is available from March through to August.
Fennel has a long history. During medieval times, people would hang it above doorways, in the belief it would ward off evil spirits. Known as fennel, Florence fennel and Italian fennel, it was introduced to New Zealand by our early settlers and it now grows from North Cape to Bluff.
It’s a useful plant. The feathery leaves are a herb and can also be added to salads. The stalks can be chopped for stocks and soups; the seeds used as a spice.
You may have spotted the yellow-headed fennel blossoms growing wild by the roadside. The pollen is an in-demand spice favoured by chefs and comes from the same plant as the seed.
Whether baby sized or larger, look for fennel bulbs that feel heavy for their size, with tight layers and no bruising. Store them in the vegetable crisper in plastic. They are best used within a week. Fennel seeds quickly lose their flavour when ground, so grind them in small batches to be quickly used.
Try pickled fennel and enjoy it added to salads or on top of a baked fish. Fennel is also absolutely delicious baked in cream (but then what isn’t?) Keep Kathy Paterson’s recipe (below) handy when you want to find a different side dish to serve with roast pork or lamb.