Produce report March 26: Fruit and veg buys of the week
The arrival of the quince is a sure sign of autumn. Choose fruit that is firm (never soft) with pale yellow skin. A little green is fine but the white woolly covering should be nearly gone.
Quinces will ripen in a few days if left at room temperature when they will become deliciously fragrant. Be careful with them though — quinces bruise easily but keep well if refrigerated in a plastic bag for a couple of months.
They are high in vitamin C and have lots of fibre and phytonutrients including quercetin, an antioxidant useful for heart health and as an anti-carcinogenic.
As anyone who has ever tried to eat one raw will know, they are way too tart and woody. Cooking will transform them into pink perfection. Because they are high in pectin, they make good jams and jellies. Add them to stewed apple in a pie or crumble or to Middle Eastern tagines.
Poaching quinces on the stovetop is probably the most used cooking method but they can be put into the slow cooker or baked in the oven. See Cooking with quinces.
Packhams, beurre bosc and taylors gold pears are affordable supermarket fruit buys.
To ripen a pear, bring it back to room temperature and leave for a few days (up to about a week). Don’t wait for it to go soft, but gently press the stem end. If there is a slight yield, it will be ripe. Fragrance is also a good indicator.
For a tasty vegetable side dish or main, try fried pears with roast red onions and crisped puy lentils from River Cottage’s Gill Meller.
New-season braeburns join the apple line-up. Sweet but tart, they are the pick for those of us who don’t want things too mellow. Or opt for more sweetness and look for golden delicious, at their very best right off the tree. They are just as good in baking.
Also back in season for a long stay: green and gold kiwifruit. The sweeter (they have more fructose), milder gold ones will be in store from April until October and the greens, with more fibre but slightly less folate, until January. Whatever type you favour, they are both good sources of vitamin C. Ripen at room temperature then store in the refrigerator. Feijoas should be lowering in price.
Pick up a cabbage and make coleslaw rather than a leafy salad — they may not be at their cheapest but there’s a lot of eating in one. Spaghetti squash (below) join sweet orange butterkins and buttercups.
To make spaghetti squash noodles: Halve, remove seeds, turn upside down on tray, cover with tinfoil and bake for about 30 minutes. Ready when a knife can easily pierce the flesh. Remove from oven, shred the insides. Serve as you would pasta. No carbs in sight.
TWO AUTUMN TARTS USING BOUGHT PASTRY