Produce report February 5: Fruit and vege buys of the week
The first of the new season pears are quietly settling into produce bins, surrounded as they are by all that colourful stonefruit which is still so sweet and vibrant. The best cherries and apricots we’ve tasted for years! Get them while you can. Apricots will be gone by the end of February – so you’ve got a few weeks to enjoy them. Keep the flavour going even longer and whip up a few jars of Kylee Newton’s refined sugar-free apricot and blueberry jam, sweetened as it is with honey, rather than refined sugar.
Cherries, still bursting with deliciousness, will be gone any day now. However, there’s still more stonefruit to come with the arrival of small but flavoursome greengages and very soon, black doris plums. They are oldies but goodies and both make excellent jams - the black doris, especially, being much loved by Kiwis, thanks to its pleasing mix of sweet and tart. With a stone that comes out easily, it’s great for baking and bottling as well as eating fresh.
But back to those pears. Look out for local nashi, here already in limited quantities. The season runs until about June so they will be getting more prolific as time marches on.
Ripen them at room temperature and then store them in the fridge. They are crisp and sweet in a salsa or salad when you want crunch and they are great spiked with a sweet, salty and chilli dressing. Downside: the nashi bruises easily so be careful with them.
Also, in stores, pretty little green and red sugar pears (seckels) - very flavoursome and sweet, and the early green Morettini. Pears are harvested in New Zealand around February to March and are generally available until May so there’s lots more to come.
Still talking new, the first of the passionfruit have arrived. They will be in season until July. And if you are on a road trip in wine country later in the month, you might get lucky with stalls selling perfumed bunches of outdoor grapes. To store grapes, remove them from plastic bags and keep them loose in the fridge, covered in paper towels. Wash before eating.
As per last week, melons are looking good.
As far as vegetables go, it’s pretty much same story as last week. We’re not complaining. The variety and quality are superb. Capsicums, sweetcorn, round beans, iceberg lettuces, eggplants and telegraph cucumbers are all very affordable. However, the standout vege buy of the week has to be tomatoes. Remember the prices in winter? It’s time to use the bounty and make your own pasta sauce or relish. Put an Indian spin on it and makeSid Sahrawat's kasundi.
To semi-dry tomatoes
Semi-dried tomatoes are great packed into jars covered with oil and used for salads, on pizzas and quiches, with pasta and in sauces. Keep them in the fridge for about a week. To semi-dry them, heat an oven to about 150C or a bit less, halve tomatoes (cut Roma ones lengthways if that’s what you are using) and arrange them cut-side-up on a baking paper-lined tray. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle over some fresh thyme leaves, or oregano or basil. Cook for about 2-3 hours until toms are semi-dried. Cool and when cold, store completely covered in extra virgin olive oil. They will keep for a week or two.