Produce report October 29: Fruit and vege buys of the week
The hass avocado season is getting into full swing, making everyone’s favourite breakfast spread affordable again.
Avocados should be even more plentiful throughout summer but, as we usually buy them unripe, a bit of planning is needed. Main crop avos, which we have now, will take about one-two weeks to ripen on your benchtop but late-season fruit, from April until June, will ripen quicker — from three to seven days.
If you are impatient, pop those avos in to a brown paper bag and include a banana or apple. Both give off ethylene gas, a ripening agent. Even when mature, avocados will not ripen on the tree so you can never pick and eat.
As at home, avocados can be a bit tricky for supermarkets. New World Fresh Expert Brigit Corson says, "Most New World stores provide at least two ripeness choices — firm (ready to eat in 3-4 days) and ripe (take home and eat tonight).
"Our avocados primarily come from Northland and the Bay of Plenty, which are producing a plentiful supply of fruit this year, so, weather prevailing, you can look forward to good prices and great supply through to late May."
Keep ripe avocados in the fridge — for up to a few days — to stop them from spoiling. When cut, store them refrigerated in a sealed container or cover with lemon juice and wrap.
If you grow your own, you may sometimes end up with too much of a good thing — a single tree can produce 400 avos in a year. Cube and freeze the flesh for leaner-day smoothies or puree with lemon juice then freeze that.
Avocados may contain a lot of (healthy monounsaturated) fat but, apparently, it is hard to gain weight without eating them to excess — that’s good news in anyone’s book. Full of potassium and vitamin E, avocados not only take care of skin but also help regulate blood pressure and may assist in lowering bad LDL cholesterol while boosting the beneficial HDL type.
Try Angela Casley's avocados with ceviche for a summery lunch or starter.
Avocados are a pleasingly common luxury but globe artichokes, not so much. These handsome thistles (photographed at the top of the page) look so striking in the garden it feels a shame to pick them. However, we advocate a bit of beheading: they are too downright delicious to leave and are available in short supply from this month until January. Though they are a treat to eat, they can be a bit fiddly to prepare. See Ray McVinnie's notes, below, to help with that and his video on preparing and steaming them.
When buying, choose heavy-for-their-size artichokes with a fresh bright colour and tightly closed leaves.
Store in the fridge or in the crisper in a vented plastic bag. Artichokes damage easily so handle them with care and eat within two-three days of purchase. Lemon juice added to the water will help prevent browning as you prepare them.
Artichokes contain an acid called cynarin which has an effect on taste, making water taste sweet and wine sweeter too. It doesn’t work with artichoke hearts you buy in a jar, just the fresh ones.
Artichokes are easier to deal with if boiled for about 40 minutes, or until a small knife easily penetrates the heart and the bottom bracts (the scoop-shaped leaves) are easily pulled off. The French eat large boiled globe artichokes with their fingers. Each bract is scraped with the teeth to remove the flesh until you get to the heart. A well-flavoured vinaigrette or hollandaise sauce are classic French accompaniments. Before boiling, wash the artichokes, cut the top third of the bracts off with a large knife, scoop out the hairy choke with a teaspoon and slice the bottom flat so it will sit up on a plate. You can peel the stem, boil it and eat that too. Small tender young artichokes can be sliced or cut into wedges then fried or added raw and thinly sliced to salads. Ray McVinnie