Hot pink on the outside and white, pink, or even purple on the inside, dragonfruit are one of the most striking exotic fruits out there. A member of the cactus family, they are also known as pitaya, or more romantically – the fruit of the moon flower plant (so-called because of it’s nocturnal flowers, that bloom during the night, and close in the morning.) Dragonfruit are a perfect summer fruit – they taste delicious chilled with a squeeze of lime juice. Just cut them in half and scoop out the flesh. You can also dice and add to a fruit platter, or use the purple and pink-fleshed varieties to add colour to your smoothies. Kylie and Steve at Rainbow Fruit Flats have just started picking this season’s purple-fleshed dragonfruit, so they will be in supply for the next couple of months. Picone Exotic Fruits also have dragonfruit, including the more unusual varieties.
REAL FRUIT ICE BLOCKS
Read the label on your kids ice blocks lately? Sugar, preservatives and a whole list of preservatives and colours seem to be in everything, including the so-called fruit juice sticks. If you are looking for a healthier alternative, try the 100 % fruit ice blocks at Rainbow Fruit Flats, which never fail to keep the kids happy on a hot summer’s day. Burringbar farmers Kylie and Steve use their home grown fruit to create their healthy treats (just fruit, nothing else) in a variety of flavours, including mango, strawberry and mango dragonfruit and mango and passionfruit and mango. Good for the grown ups too.
It’s peak season for watermelon and the perfect time to be enjoying them. Will Everest (Everest Farm) has some great seedless varieties.
The Northern Rivers can lay claim to quite a few Australian ’bests’ – the best beaches, best macadamias, best coffee, and undoubtedly, the best bananas. Local bananas are a little smaller than the North Queensland version (the huge ones you find in the supermarket), but they just taste so much better. It’s our cool winters and longer ripening time that allows the sugars to fully develop and makes them taste so sweet. Local growers Neville Singh and Will Everest have plenty of delicious bananas available at the moment – lovely just as they are, in a smoothie or in cakes and muffins. In the hot weather they ripen very quickly, so go for the ones that are still a little green if you want them to last. Of course, you can always freeze bananas – peel and place in a ziplock bag and use as you need. Frozen bananas whipped in the food processor to a smooth consistency are a yummy and healthy ice cream alternative- add some coconut milk for an even creamier texture, then enjoy as is or top with nuts, fresh fruit or honey.
Easy summer salads need fresh leafy greens, and the farmers markets have some great choices to fill your salad bowl. The Gourmet Salad Hut is a salad lovers heaven – an entire stall dedicated to salad greens. Along with their big selection of fancy lettuce that includes cos, coral, green oak, red oak and mignonette, you’ll also find some more unusual choices like wild rocket, pak choy, tatsoi, beetroot leaf and watercress, that will add some beautiful colours flavours and textures to your salads. Denise Latham and Church Farm also have a variety of fresh lettuce and salad mixes available. To keep your greens fresher longer, chop off the roots and store in the fridge in an airtight bag or container.
Local growers are picking plenty of these sweet fruits at the moment, just as good in fruit salads, drinks or on their own as they are on top of the classic Aussie summer pavlova. Find fresh passionfruit at Jumping Red Ant and Everest Farm
For pure sweet corn deliciousness, wrap your cobs in foil with some butter, garlic and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and salt, and cook on the barbecue. Hint: Cook and eat your sweet corn as soon as possible after buying it. Over time, the sugars in sweet corn start converting to starch, so the longer you leave it, the less sweet it will be (this is why fresh corn tastes so much better than corn that’s been sitting on a supermarket shelf for a week). Try Will Everest’s stall for sweet and fresh locally grown corn.
Another summer favourite, sweet and fragrant basil is at its best over the coming months. Blend with local macadamias garlic, olive oil, lemon juice plus parmesan and salt for a delicious pesto, add it to pasta dishes, or sprinkle on pizza just before serving for some fresh flavour. Basil is notoriously tricky to keep fresh, so if you’re not going to use your basil straight away, you will need to store it properly.The Salad Hut recommends the following for all fresh herbs: chop off the roots, wrap in paper towel and put in a sealed container or clip lock bag in the fridge. Look for fresh basil at The Salad Hut, Summit Organics and from Glenyce Creighton’s stall.
Most of the pepper we eat is the dried, black version. Before it becomes dried pepper, however, it’s a fresh peppercorn, which looks like a small green berry. Fresh peppercorns are milder (but still have a hot kick), and have a complex and fresh, fruity flavour. They make an incredible pepper sauce, and also pair well with goats cheese, seafood and the flavours of Thai and Indian cooking. Fresh peppercorns available from rare and exotic fruit and spice grower, John Picone at Picone Exotics.
Witch’s Broomstick has some delicious summer shitake available at the moment. Their meaty texture and flavour is perfect for Asian dishes.
NEW SEASON GARLIC
There’s good reason to celebrate the arrival of the first crop of new season local garlic at the markets. After a few months in very short supply, it means there should be plenty of around for at least the next six months. Picone Exotics and Neville Singh both have garlic back on their stalls now.
INFUSED OLIVE OIL
Olive producers Grumpy Grandma’s have added yet another award to their already impressive list, picking up Gold at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show for their new Garlic Infused Wood Smoked Olive Oil. Delicious for dipping with fresh woodfired sourdough bread, on your bruschetta or for flavouring cous cous or chargrilled vegetables.
Those strawberries on the supermarket shelf look big, red and ripe, but get them home and you find they’re disappointingly hard, watery and flavourless. Sound familiar? There are a few reasons why strawberries don’t taste good anymore – including the fact that they are picked early (while still hard and not quite ripe) – so that they can stand up to being transported long distances, yet still hold their shape and look good when they reach the supermarket shelf. Unfortunately, this means the sugars have not fully developed and the fruit is not as sweet as it would be if it was left to ripen on the vine. Local strawberry farmers Kylie and Steve, of Rainbow Fruit Flats are able leave their fruit to fully ripen, picking the day before market, and that’s one of the reasons their fruit tastes so much better.