Produce report: November 6
Farro stores have just added local white asparagus alongside those tight green bunches that we’re gleefully adding to the spring shopping trolley. Those lovely thin spears are top quality and getting more affordable as time passes. White asparagus, by contrast, is much more common in Europe and only occasionally seen in New Zealand, sometimes at farmers’ markets but often imported in jars or tins and sold through stores such as Sabato.
White asparagus gets its pale looks because, as it grows, it is covered in a thick layer of mulch and plastic so photosynthesis never occurs. It generally has thick stems but is very tender. Even so, the more woody ends will benefit from being trimmed. Try white asparagus steamed and impress your dinner guests.
Still in the luxury produce department, look out for globe artichokes which are more readily available now.
It’s starting to feel like summer in the produce aisles. The first of the Hawke’s Bay nectarines will be in Farro stores soon as well. They herald the arrival of the stonefruit but there’s a wee while before it all gets into full swing.
Strawberries are coming down in price as the season progresses. We spied an excellent offer last week at the Avondale market: five punnets for $5 which makes them cheap enough to use in jam or to flavour a summery ice cream or use them to top custard tarts, photographed below.
Look out for Curious Croppers’ well-flavoured tomatoes which are hitting stores now — another warm-weather taste.
In supermarkets, courgettes are good buying and, being new and baby sized, they are delicate and tender. Shave them raw into a salad or cook them briefly.
As far as fruit buys go, the navel orange is holding its own. These big, sweet orbs are very cheap. Local tangelos are also plentiful. From the imports, you can’t beat Dole pineapples, which are really excellent buys. Australian calypso mangoes and US pomegranates are in supermarkets now for the festive lead-up.
Warren Elwin combines strawberries and pomegranate arils in his easy-to-assemble strawberry shortcake sundae, which would make a quick but impressive dessert for grown-ups.
It would not have been good news for those celebrating Halloween last week because pumpkins are in short supply — there’s been way too much rain — but that’s news to no one.