Produce report November 19: Fruit and vege buys of the week
The first jersey benne potatoes are trickling in from Oamaru. Give them a wash and leave their delicate skins on. Later in the season, the skins can sometimes turn a little bitter so rubbing them off may be the way to go then. Store in a cool, dark place, in the box they came in. Never refrigerate.
"Most of the eggplants in New World at this time of year come from greenhouses in the top of the North Island, including one of our major producers in Auckland that has adopted sustainable growing practices using less water and fewer resources for a top quality fruit all-year-round,” fresh expert Brigit Corson says.
“In the winter when locally grown is in shorter supply, we bring in different varieties from Fiji. This season’s eggplant is looking particularly plentiful and they are very quick from farm to store, so look for good buys at your local New World!”
Despite being available year-round, the common purple type we are most familiar with is more plentiful from now through to early winter. Capsicums are even more of a bargain buy from January.
Green golf-ball or smaller eggplants, to be dropped into Thai curries, and the skinny purple-streaked Japanese variety for stir-fries, are less available but can be found in Asian stores and markets now. You may see baby white types too. They can be eaten raw.
When buying look for plump, tight and shiny eggplants, without any brown patches. They should feel heavy for their size. Store them in the fridge and be careful with them, they bruise easily.
One of the nicest, silkiest ways to eat eggplant is in a dip or in an Asian-inspired salad and for these you want super soft flesh. Roasting makes it easy: Heat the oven to 180C. Pierce the aubergine a couple of times with a knife, then roast for about 30-45 minutes, until blackened, softened and collapsing. Leave to cool and scoop out the flesh. Mash with a fork or pop it into a blender. Try this dip below from Viva.
Eggplants take a long time to grow so it would be a real shame to waste all that effort, should you end up with an autumnal glut. If so, it’s the freezer to the rescue. Because they have lots of water, eggplants need to be cooked first before being frozen. Cut into chunky slices and bake them in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes, until just tender, to be added later to dishes like eggplant parmigiana (separate the slices with sheets of baking paper so they don’t stick together).
If you are more likely to use them in a dip, roast your eggplants whole, as described above. Scoop out the flesh, puree and freeze that in a covered container. It will last for up to one year in the freezer.
Capsicums freeze very well too. They don’t need to be cooked or blanched first and they also retain some crunch when defrosted. Wash, deseed, dry carefully and cut into chunks or slices so they don’t take up too much freezer space.
Capsicums are a good source of vitamin C and a source of vitamin B6 and folate. Red capsicums contain higher levels of both nutrients compared to the other colours and both red and orange capsicums are a source of vitamin A. Coming from the same plant, green capsicums ripen to red but the yellow and orange ones are different varieties.
See Ray McVinnie’s how to roast capsicums video