Produce report October 1: Fruit and vege buys of the week
Look out for the first of the new season potatoes — with baby Perlas and their larger cousin, Ilam Hardy, leading the charge in New World stores. Delicately flavoured new potatoes generally start appearing from the end of winter, with Perlas available only during the spring and summer seasons, from September through to March. Around November, Oamaru’s famous Jersey Bennes will join them in time for Christmas.
Because new potatoes are waxy (with more water than starch) they hold their shape when cooked, making them perfect for the salads we are starting to crave. They also have tender skins so there is no need to peel them. Just rinse and cook small ones whole.
Fresh new potatoes cook quite quickly so don’t turn your back for too long. Drop them into cold, salted water and boil, or steam them, for about 10 minutes, depending on size, and coat them in butter or oil the minute they are ready so they can suck up the flavour. Later in the season, larger new potatoes can be roasted until lightly golden.
Although new potatoes will turn gluey when mashed, New World fresh expert Phil Lemon says they are great “slightly smashed with a fork, drizzled with melted butter, sprinkled with sea salt flakes and some fresh dill or parsley”. Or try this easy method which is finished in the oven, turning them a little bit crisp:
Cook about 24 new potatoes (Perlas, Jersey Benne or Nadine) in a saucepan of salted water until just tender, drain and allow to cool. Place potatoes in a single layer on an oiled roasting dish. Carefully crush each potato with a potato masher, taking care not to smash the potatoes completely, until they’re approximately 1cm high. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Bake in a 200C oven for 20 minutes until golden and crisp.
As the season progresses, some potatoes — like the yellow-skinned, white-fleshed Ilam Hardy — will change their nature. As Potatoes New Zealand says: “An Ilam Hardy early in the season (October) is quite waxy. A mid-season Ilam Hardy is a good general-purpose potato, while towards the end of the season a lot more of the natural sugars have converted to starch, so it tends to be floury. Not all potatoes show such a range of characteristics. Weather, climate and soil have a dramatic effect on the cooking performance of a potato. A Southland-grown Nadine may be very waxy while a Pukekohe grown Nadine may be only slightly waxy. Flavour is also influenced.”
For baking, roasting, mashing, and as chips and wedges, you should choose floury potatoes which are the opposite of the waxy crowd — they are low in water and high in starch. They will absorb a lot of liquid and flavour. The most common varieties include Agria, Fianna and Red Jackets.
Varieties which tend to be waxy are most early, new season potatoes including Nadine, Draga, Frisia and Jersey Benne.
Wash potatoes just before eating — soil clinging to the skins helps prevent moisture loss. Handle them carefully, they bruise easily. New potatoes especially are susceptible to greening, so keep them somewhere cool, dark and well-ventilated (not in the fridge) and use promptly.
Taste aside, the potato offers a lot. A medium-sized one contains nearly half the recommended intake of vitamin C, along with potassium and vitamin B6, thiamine and niacin.
Did you know?
Potatoes are the most popular vegetable across the country and over half of us consume them four times a week. “In New Zealand, there are over 200 potato growers with a growing area of 10,591 hectares — that’s a lot of room for one of our favourite things,” New World fresh expert Phil Lemon says.
Good buying this week
Avocados are better buying now, bringing a summery burst to meals. Asparagus is more widely available and becoming cheaper too. Local courgettes are still expensive but are looking good, glossy and fresh. The big news, however, comes from the fruit section — the first of the local NZ-grown strawberries have arrived, with flavour and price set to improve as the season progresses. Navel oranges and lemons are still great buys. Fresh truss tomatoes and Pink Lady apples are good buying in all New World stores. Look out for new-season raspberries for a real treat.