Produce report October 8: Fruit and vege buys of the week
There are few sights in the supermarket more appealing than punnets of strawberries and the locally grown fruit is here now, heralding the approach of summer. “In New Zealand, we grow a few different varieties, such as Festival, Albion and Ventana,” New World fresh food expert Phil Lemon says. “However, most of our stores sell Camarosa strawberries for their large, sweet fruit, grown mostly in the North Island.”
Strawberries do not ripen after they are harvested, so what you buy (or pick) is what you get. Though they will continue to turn red, the flavour and sweetness will not improve. Conversely, strawberries that are the deepest (dull) red will be overripe and may be mushy. The scent of the berries can also be an indicator of quality.
If they will not be eaten on the day of purchase, remove strawberries from their punnets and store them, unwashed and with stems attached, in a single layer on a paper towel-lined tray. Keep them in the vegetable crisper of the fridge, which will stop them drying out. Cover with a lid. Any mouldy berries should be removed immediately to stop it spreading.
Bring strawberries up to room temperature before you eat them or you won’t get to taste their full flavour. And don’t wash them until you are ready to eat. Leave their stalks attached so they don’t turn mushy and rinse thoroughly under cool running water. Drain in a sieve and pat dry with a paper towel. Then remove the stems.
Early in the season when strawberries won’t be at their sweetest (the sun, after all, is what does that) macerating sliced berries with a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar and the juice of ½ lemon will help soften and flavour them up. Leave for 1-2 hours for the juices to turn a bit jammy. If overripe, whiz your berries into smoothies, make a sauce for icecream or freeze them for baking and desserts.
To freeze: remove the stems, leave them whole, halve or slice them, then put them into the freezer in a single layer on a baking sheet. Store when frozen in an airtight container. They will be squishy after defrosting so can’t be eaten as is but are useful and flavoursome in cooking and drinks. Otherwise, puree your berries and then freeze: wash and dry, remove stems. Crush berries, press through a fine sieve or puree in a blender or food processor. Sweeten to taste, ensuring the sugar is dissolved. Pour puree into containers, leaving the appropriate headspace to allow for expansion before sealing with a lid.
Maybe this is the year to add strawberries to savoury salads as well as on top of the pavlova. Strawberries love balsamic vinegar, as most people who have come across them in salads will know. Try this strawberry salad with venison, pistachio and balsamic.
Not ready for the salad? Try this baked brie and strawberries, an easy nibble for drinks to get you started.
Strawberries are high in vitamin C, with good amounts of manganese, folate and potassium. The berry supply is set to increase but meanwhile, summery blueberries and raspberries are in supermarkets in limited quantities too.
Tangelos have been late arriving this year but they are finally here. A hybrid, mostly grown in New Zealand around Gisborne, they are a cross between a tangerine and pomelo or grapefruit, and sometimes between a mandarin and grapefruit. They combine mandarin’s easy peel with grapefruit’s tartness and, with few pips but loads of juice, they provide thirst-quenching freshness. When buying tangelos, look for those with dark, almost red, skin which indicates ripeness. Store at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Asparagus is looking great. It will get cheaper as the season progresses. Fresh cut lettuce and tomato varieties are good buys this week in New World supermarkets. You can also pick up fresh pomegranates from the US — they’re great for summer salads and desserts. “There’s a knack to removing the ruby red seeds (called "arils") from the whole fruit,” says New World’s Brigit Corson: “I like to cut the top and bottom off the fruit and then slice into segments around the circumference, being careful not to cut all the way through or you can damage the delicate arils. You can then gently separate the segments and prise out the goodness.”
Four delicious ways with asparagus
- Place 2-3 cooked spears in an individual herb omelette and dress with a lemon vinaigrette.
- Make an asparagus salad using fresh buffalo mozzarella, cucumber slices and snipped chives. Dress with Lot 8 Yuzu infused olive oil.
- Wrap blanched asparagus spears in nitrate-free bacon. Grill until the bacon is crisp and cooked.
- Top charred asparagus spears with a pan-fried mixture of finely chopped mild onion, anchovies, lemon zest and chopped flat leaf parsley. Kathy Paterson