Produce report April 9: Fruit and vege buys of the week
March through to July is the main season for turnips but you can usually buy these roots, which come in a variety of hues ─ white or purple, green or red ─ from February until August.
Boiled, steamed or baked, cook them as you would potatoes. If the mild weather continues to hold and you are still thinking salad rather than mash, look for small turnips which will be crisp, sweet and juicy and cut them into matchsticks or slice into paper-thin rounds and serve raw, dressed with a vinaigrette.
If you can find them, the leaves from baby turnips can be eaten uncooked. They have a spicy, peppery taste. Leaves from older, larger turnips are better cooked. Make a gratin and add them with the roots. Roasted turnips are good with rosemary. Chop and strew the herb over them before cooking and serve alongside a roast chook.
Jan Bilton lightly cooks them in her recipe for baby turnips with sweet dressing. Simmer 290g trimmed baby turnips in salted water for 10 minutes or until just tender. Meanwhile, whisk 1½ Tbsp cider vinegar, 2 tsp runny honey, 2 tsp dijon mustard and freshly ground black pepper in a bowl until smooth. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the turnips, turning for a few minutes until lightly coloured. Add the vinegar mixture and stir until the turnips are well coated and the glaze is thick. Add 2 Tbsp finely chopped mint, mix well and serve.
When buying turnips, look for those that feel heavy for their size. Wrap them in a paper towel and store in the fridge in a plastic bag. You won’t need to peel baby turnips but larger ones will require it. Slice off the root and stem ends first. Overcooking can make the flavour too strong so be mindful of that.
Turnips have lots of vitamin C and are a good source of vitamin B6, folate, potassium, calcium and copper. Swedes are often confused with turnips. Also called rutabagas or neeps in Scotland, they are a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, developed in Sweden in the 17th century. While a turnip’s flesh is white, a swede’s is yellow-orange and they taste sweeter than turnips.
Swedes are more readily available in winter although they are in stores now, and are said to taste better after a good frost. Those grown in the New Zealand’s Deep South are said to be best. See Kathy Paterson’s fast braise of leek, potato, swede and carrot (photo below).
Although they’re also thought of as a winter vegetable, leeks are usually available all year round. Sometimes they are hard to get between November and February. You should be able to find baby ones in stores now too which can be trimmed, blanched, drained well and roasted.
Whole grey-skinned pumpkins are our standout vegetable buy of the week, tasting even more delicious given how expensive they were at the end of last year.
Dark green-skinned buttercups are good buying too. Try either of them in the lamb curry recipe below.
Cauliflowers are making an appearance again in stores but they are smallish and not yet a bargain. Ditto lettuces which are lowering slightly in price. It’s always a wrench to say goodbye to sweetcorn but this is its last month.
Fruit wise, feijoas continue to lower in price and apples are in good supply. Look for Braeburns too. If making an apple puree to serve with roast pork or a sweetened version to serve with cream, you will intensify the flavour and thicken the texture by chopping your fruit with the skin-on and adding the pectin-rich cores. Simply pass the cooked pulp through a sieve before serving.
Nashi pears continue their seasonal run, until June. Ripen at room temperature then store in the fridge. If you are lucky, you may find big fat local raspberries for sale and imported mangoes to keep summer alive for that little bit longer.