Produce report October 22: Fruit and vege buys of the week
Pretty and sweet, peas step into the limelight in spring.
Now is the time to use snow peas in stir-fries and salads. They always seem rather special, given they are in limited supply, but they are more plentiful from now until April. Snow peas (also called mangetout) are almost completely flat with tiny peas inside the pods. Crisper sugar snaps are a cross between snowpeas and garden peas. They are fatter than snow peas but the pods of both are eaten and they can be used interchangeably.
When buying, look for bright green, smooth pods. Use them asap as they don’t keep too well. And don’t overcook them. Add them in the middle of a vege stir-fry. Otherwise blanch them quickly so the colour stays bright and the texture remains crisp. Plunge them into icy water to cool, drain and add to dishes. Any tough strings along the shorter edge should be removed before use. Add pea shoots and their flowers to salads as well if you have access to them.
Frozen peas are a godsend and the quality is always good. Fresh peas, however, are a Christmas must-have for many Kiwi families and they will be with us in a week or two, in short supply until February. New World fresh expert Brigit Corson says the season is short so it’s essential that if you want Kiwi peas, you get in quick.
Peas are grown primarily in Canterbury, Marlborough, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay. Frozen peas are now New Zealand’s fifth most valuable vegetable export, and peas are exported to 35 countries.
Use snow peas and sugar snaps along with frozen peas in Kathy Paterson’s spring carrot, spring onion and pea braise, a great side dish for this time of year (see below).
Peas, as any child could tell you, can be eaten straight out of the pod, the earlier the better. It’s practically criminal the way their sugar speedily turns to starch, so don’t buy them and wait.
Eat those fresh peas dropped raw — if they are very new — into a salad. Otherwise boil without salt (which will toughen them) in a little water for 2-3 minutes or steam for a minute or two. Add a pinch of sugar and some fresh mint if liked. When buying, look for crisp pods — a kilogram will yield about 400g of peas. Store in the fridge for up to a week, though one to two days makes for better eating.
Peas are one of the best vege sources of protein and have a good amount of vitamin C, folate and thiamine as well as B-group vitamins. Snow peas have even more vitamin C than their bigger relative but less protein so it’s a bit of give and take.
Broad beans (called fava beans in the US) arrive then leave again practically before you can blink. They are a real spring treat. Again, look for firm bright-green pods with even-sized beans. Any brown on the pod means the beans may have been harvested too late; very large pods and the beans will be starchy rather than sweet.
As with peas, frozen broad beans are very good and readily available but, like the fresh ones, if you want to enjoy them at their best, their tough grey skins should be removed after cooking. It’s a bit laborious but worth it.
Small baby broad beans can be eaten raw, unpeeled, or even left in their pods if they are tiny. Cook in a pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes. Refresh in icy water and add to salads, risottos, stir-fries, in a mash for bruschetta or pasta dishes. Again buy up big — you’ll get about 300g beans from 1kg of pods.
Courgette prices are coming down nicely, putting vege fritters and ribbon salads back on the midweek menu.
Avocados are getting cheaper week by week. You will find a choice of thin and thick-speared bunches of asparagus now in supermarkets. Look out for well-priced eggplants and telegraph cucumbers, fresh cut lettuce and capsicums at New World. The strawberry season is now in full swing with plentiful supply. Fruit buys this week include Californian grapes and Pink Lady apples.
Blanch ½ cup peas in hot water for 2 minutes. Drain and place in ice water. If using frozen peas, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 2 minutes. Pound 1 clove garlic with a little pinch of salt, 3 large handfuls of mint, basil and parsley in a pestle and mortar, then add the peas and continue to pound until they break down. Alternatively, pulse in a food processor. Fold in 1 finely diced avocado and crush lightly with the pestle until combined but still with some texture. Turn out into a bowl and gently add 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, more if required — you need just enough to bind the sauce and get it to an oozy consistency. Taste for seasoning and add some lemon juice and zest. Serve with zucchini noodle pasta salad. This forms part of Megan May’s summer pasta with basil and avocado pea pesto recipe.