Produce report November 12: Fruit and vege buys of the week
Blueberries are slowly coming down in price as the long October to April season cranks up. Jewel-toned raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries join the blues in the produce aisle, along with strawberries that are at everyday-eating prices.
“Our New Zealand blueberries arrive to stores very quickly after harvest and have a high turnover at this time of year as we all rush in for our fix — so they’re extra fresh when you pick them off the shelf,” says Brigit Corson, New World fresh expert.
Good keepers as far as berries go, they will last for at least a week in the fridge. They freeze well too but don’t wash them first or they will stick together. There’s no need to defrost frozen berries before adding them to baking. They tend to bleed into the mix if you do. When buying look for firm fruit without softening.
As most of the flavour comes from the skin, smaller berries with a bigger skin-to-flesh ratio often pack more punch than very large ones. Try them to celebrate the advent of warmer days in this blueberry mojito.
Although you will find raspberries and blackberries in stores now, they will be more plentiful in December. “If we have a lovely mild and sunny summer, we could see raspberries and blackberries on shelves through to March,” says Brigit.
We will have boysenberries, that sweet hybrid between raspberries and blackberries, only until January. Raspberries belong to the rose family — and their sweet-sharp flavour does indeed have a floral edge. They are only harvested when ripe and, like blueberries, freeze very well. Raspberries are drupes, made up of a cluster of individual fruits.
If you can get away with not washing them, go for it, they so easily can become limp and waterlogged. When you do wash them, a forceful tap is a no-no. Pop them into a colander and dip that in a bowl of cold water. Remove then drain the berries. Some people advocate washing them in a diluted white vinegar/water solution to prolong their storage life and to kill off any of the mould spores that can turn the berries bad so quickly. It’s a bit of a process, the berries needing to be rinsed in fresh water and carefully dried afterwards. Otherwise, raspberries are best eaten within a day.
To make an easy dessert sauce for over icecream, crush 500g raspberries with up to 100g icing sugar. Push through a sieve to remove seeds. The sauce will last for about a week in the fridge. Or try this raspberry and vanilla yoghurt sauce.
Store berries in a container that provides some air circulation — the one you bought them in is just right. However, it’s important to ensure it is dry and lined with paper towels to help absorb moisture. Leave holes near the lid uncovered for air circulation (blackberries can be stored uncovered). Avoid storing berries in the coldest top part of the fridge and avoid the crisper too.
Look out for New Zealand King Sweeties at your local New World. These are a type of capsicum that look like a very large red chilli. They’re surprisingly sweet and a beautiful addition to a green salad. Asparagus, tomatoes and cucumbers are our New World buys of the week.
This slice lasts 2-3 days but can be frozen up to two months if you wrap individual slices in plastic wrap and freeze. The individual serves are perfect to pack, still frozen, in lunchboxes as they defrost by lunchtime.