The judges have given a big thumbs up to two local dip producers based at the farmers markets at the recent Sydney Royal Fine Food Awards. The Bay Smokehouse, received a Gold Medal for their Smoked Fish Rillettes, an addictive fish spread made with organic raw cashew cream and locally caught smoked fish, while Baraka Foods, won two Silvers for their Hummus with Chilli Harissa and Hummus with Za’atar Herb. All three award winning dips are available weekly at the market.
Mulberries always seem to bring back memories of childhood – climbing up the neighbourhood tree, feasting on the fruit and getting your face and clothes covered in the purple juice. It’s a bumper season for these sweet berries this year, and if you don’t have your own tree or one in your street, the next best thing is a punnet fresh from the farmers market. Look for them at Glenyce Creighton’s stall (next to Nev Singh bananas). Delicious as they are, or served with cream, ice cream or crème fraiche.
The newest farmer to join the New Brighton Farmers Market is Gary, from Wollumbin Gourmet Mushrooms. Gary grows a variety of seasonal and micro seasonal gourmet mushrooms like Shimeji, Shiitake, King Oyster, Blue Oyster, White Oyster, and Pink Oyster. All of Gary’s mushrooms are grown as naturally as possible, outside in their natural environment. “We believe in minimal impact on the environment and even place our logs and growing areas around and between the trees within the forest,”says Gary. Also look out for his grow at home mushroom logs.
There’s a saying that when the wattle blooms, it’s snapper time, and according to Ballina fishers John and Julie Joblin, snapper season has indeed arrived. Considered one of the best eating fishes, snapper is a delicately flavoured fish that’s delicious baked whole. barbecued, grilled or fried. It matches particularly well with fresh Thai-style flavours like ginger, basil, and chilli or a macadamia pesto. Find fresh local snapper at JJ Seafood.
CELERY AND CELERIAC
These two are essentially the same plant, but while celery is grown for its tops, celeriac is grown for the root. It’s an unusual, gnarly-looking vegetable, but it has a lovely mild flavour, is highly nutritious and can be used in many ways. Add it to mashed potato, use to thicken soups or grate raw into salads. Find celeriac at Jumping Red Ant and celery at Summit Organics and Denise Latham’s stall.
Also known as spring roses, ranunculus are stunning flowers (commonly used in bridal bouquets) that almost look too perfect to be real. Duranbah vegetable and flower growers Jumping Red Ant have ranunculus in a variety if colours including pinks, yellows and reds, along with their gerberas and roses. Other farmers picking spring blooms includes Myocum farmer Glenyce Creighton, who has bright bold sunflowers and smaller locally grown flower arrangements, while Denise Latham has edible mixes that include nasturtium, violas and pansies – beautiful as a garnish on a cake or sprinkled in a salad.
Now is an excellent time to get your spring and summer crops planted, especially after the recent rain, Cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum, corn, lettuce and melons can all be planted now. Local seedling suppliers One Organic have a variety of locally raised seedlings available,that are well adapted to local conditions and ready to thrive in your home garden.
If you find supermarket strawberries are lacking flavour and sweetness, you need to try a farmers market strawberry. Left to ripen on the vine (as opposed to being picked early so they can stand up to travelling and spending days on a supermarket shelf) they’re beautifully sweet and full of flavour. Look for them at Rainbow Fruit Flats and Summit Organics.
Spring might be here but it’s not quite time to say goodbye to the roasts and slow cooks. Packed with vitamins and minerals, root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, sweet potato, and turnips are all in season now. Use them in soups, cut into chips, mash or roast then toss with greens, herbs, macadamias or pecans, some quinoa or cous cous and a dressing for a tasty roast vegetable salad.
The bright lemony flavour of a handful of fresh coriander leaves is the secret ingredient in so many dishes – think fragrant Thai soups and curries, Vietnamese chicken salad, bahn mi, Indian curries and even guacamole. Add it just before serving for the best flavour and don’t forget to save the roots as they can be used for home made curry pastes. Winter is the best season for fresh local coriander – find it at The Salad Hut and Summit Organics or grab some seedlings from the market and grow your own.
Nothing compares to the taste of a sweet, plump juicy pea straight from its pod. Use fresh peas in pasta and rice dishes, soups, or steam lightly and serve with butter and salt and pepper – much better than the frozen ones! If you can’t be bothered with shelling, try snow peas, which are also in season – delicious as a side, in stir fries, or raw in salads. They’re also great for kids’ lunchboxes. The sweetest of all the peas – the sugar snap – will also be available at the markets in coming weeks. Look for fresh peas at Everest Farm and Jumping Red Ant.
Cut thin slivers of fresh fennel and toss it into a salad with some citrus, red onion, herbs and rocket or baby spinach and add a vinegary dressing for a beautiful winter salad, The frond can also be chopped finely and added as a garnish, Fennel is also delicious braised or roasted – cut the bulb into quarters or eighths, toss with olive oil and vinegar and roast until tender then top with fresh parmesan.