Produce report November 5: Fruit and vege buys of the week
At about 96 per cent water, cucumber is always cooler than room temperature, making it extra appealing on a hot summer day. Although available year-round, they are most plentiful in the warmer months and are good buying now. Store in the vegetable crisper but take the chill off before serving so you can appreciate the delicate taste. In side dishes, cucumber will help lift a meal. Seeds scraped out, the flesh grated, salted and drained, cucumber is added with mint, dill and garlic to Greek yoghurt to become the Middle Eastern dip tzatziki. With yoghurt, cumin, garlic, mint or coriander, maybe a bit of chilli, grated or finely chopped cucumber becomes a raita to calm down an Indian curry. No Greek salad can be made without cucumber and it shines in quick relishes like this one from Allyson Gofton:
Cut ½ telegraph cucumber in half lengthwise and use a teaspoon to scoop out and discard the seeds. Grate flesh. Stir 2-3 tsp sugar into 3 Tbsp boiling water together until the sugar dissolves. In a small dish, stir together the grated cucumber, the sugar syrup, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar and 1 tsp fish sauce. Serve well chilled with Thai fish cakes.
“Most of the cucumbers we buy in New Zealand are the long telegraph ones that are grown indoors, similar to hothouse tomatoes, and they are abundant at this time of year,” says Brigit Corson, New World fresh expert. These are in shorter supply from February to April but the outdoor types fill the gap. Cucumber is low in calories but is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Beetroot, plentiful from November until April, is looking very fresh and inviting. Although slow to cook, it is most intensely flavoured when baked; otherwise boil, grate it raw into salads and pickle it. Several varieties of beetroot are commonly available in New Zealand with roots varying in shape from round to cylindrical. There’s also Chioggia, candy cane beetroot, and increasingly yellow beetroot too. However, the flavour is about the same no matter what shape or colour you buy. Beetroot is a member of the spinach family – and their young tops, which do indeed taste of spinach, are lovely added to salads. “Originally it was the leaves, rather than the roots, that people preferred to eat,” Brigit says. “When buying beetroot, look for the deep red colour and smooth, firm skin. At New World our beets are mainly from Levin and Pukekohe.” Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beetroot its colour, is a powerful antioxidant and eating beetroot has been shown to reduce high blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. Raw beetroot helps support liver detoxification too so with party season fast approaching Simon Gault’s power cleanse for breakfast is going to come in handy.
Sweet yet earthy, beetroot likes cumin, allspice, cloves, caraway (add the seeds to the liquid if you are boiling your beets), star anise and ginger. It also likes fragrant, warm herbs. Partner with basil, mint, coriander, dill, ginger, fennel, sage, thyme, oregano and tarragon.
At New World this week look for convenient pomegranate aril packs or fresh imported whole pomegranate from the USA, and Queensland rockmelons. You can look forward to local rockmelons from the Far North, Hawkes Bay and Nelson in New World stores from mid-December. Asparagus is exceptional buying along with New Zealand strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers.