The humble cauliflower is having its moment, with foodies, chefs and those on low carb, gluten free, raw, paleo and other special diets discovering new ways to use this brilliantly versatile winter vegetable. Mashed cauliflower is probably the best introduction to the ‘new’ cauliflower, and makes a great low carb alternative to mashed potatoes. Just boil the cauliflower until soft, drain and allow all the steam to escape (the less moisture the better) then simply add butter and or garlic and blend/puree with a stick mixer until it has the consistency of mashed potatoes. For extra flavour, add cheese and season with salt and pepper. Once you’ve mastered cauliflower mash, there’s a whole world of cauliflower recipes to explore, like cauliflower rice, cauliflower falafel, even cauliflower pizza base! Roasted cauliflower is also delicious – just season florets with olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs, sprinkle with parmesan and roast in the oven till the edges are crispy. Cauliflower available from Will at Everest Farm and Rod at Summit Organics.
Baby carrots, or Dutch carrots, are popular at the market now. Dutch carrots are delicious with a roast – just remove the greens from the top and throw them in whole and unpeeled with a little oil and salt and pepper with the rest of your vegies. Honeyed Dutch carrots are another classic way to enjoy them – simply steam or boil whole in salted water, then pour over a little honey and butter melted together. Dutch carrots and the larger carrot varieties are also available at Summit Organics.
There are plenty of local spuds being harvested at the moment. Sebago, Kipfler, Nicola and the ever-popular Dutch Cream are available – try Jumping Red Ant for some top quality local potatoes.
This lovely anise-flavoured vegetable is equally delicious raw or cooked. The white bulb of the fennel is the bit that is most commonly eaten – it can be grated or sliced thinly into salads, or roasted for a more a more mellow flavour and silken texture. Fennel is a great great partner for pork, sausages, fish, pasta dishes and pizza or try it raw in salads with orange, pear or apple, and some leafy greens. The delicate fronds can be used as a garnish or added to salads and the stalks can be used in stocks. Available from Summit Organics and Everest Farm,
There’s an excellent variety of locally grown citrus available at the moment, bursting with immune system boosting Vitamin C and other goodies that will help stave off those winter sniffles. For oranges, limes, and lemons, try Jane at Rancho Limes and Church Farm. At Church Farm you’ll also find the juiciest of all citrus, the Tangelo (a cross between a tangerine and grapefruit) and the Lemonade fruit, a sweet cross between a mandarin and a lemon that looks like a lemon but has no bitterness. Kate at The Organic Avocado also has a good variety of citrus including mandarins, and the golf ball sized West Indian or Key Lime – hard-to-find, but probably the best tasting of all limes.
The sweet flavour of a crisp pea, snow pea or sugar snap pea straight from the vine can’t be beaten. Soon after it’s picked, however, the sugars that make them taste so good start to convert to starch, which is why peas in the supermarket that have travelled long distances or sat in a coolroom for days just don’t taste that great. If you want to enjoy peas as they should taste, try those picked fresh from Everest Farm or Jumping Red Ant who both pick the day before market. No need to cook, just eat as is, add to a salad or use in kids lunchboxes.
Fresh celery is perfect for winter soups and stocks, stir fries, spaghetti bolognaise or slow cooks. It’s also delicious in salads, as a scooper for peanut butter or dips or added to juices or green smoothies. There is some good organically grown celery at the markets at the moment, look for it at Summit Organics and Denise Latham’s lettuce stall.
It’s been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Indian medicine, and now it seems the rest of the world has caught on to the health-giving powers of this golden yellow spice. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, powerful antioxidant, and research suggests it has benefits for arthritis and joint pain, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart health, even for fighting cancer. During the cooler months, it is an especially good cold and flu fighter – grate some fresh turmeric into hot water with lemon, honey and ginger, or make a golden milk – turmeric with milk of your choice, honey and black pepper (which helps your body absorb curcumin, turmeric’s active compound.) There’s plenty of fresh turmeric to be found at the farmers market, especially in the coming months as the main turmeric harvest gets underway. Church Farm & Summit Organics both have fresh turmeric as well as turmeric juice and paste.
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 Tomlin and Steve Cridland, 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. The local strawberry season is just beginning, so weather permitting, there should be plenty of sweet berries to look forward to at the market over the coming months.
These knobbly green fruit don’t look all that pretty, but cut them open and you’ll discover a delicious white flesh with a creamy texture and sweet flavour that -as the name suggests – tastes a little like custard and cooked apple. The simplest way to eat a custard apple is to cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, but they can also be used in desserts, cakes and smoothies. Find them at Rancho Cordial. The Organic Avocado. and Glenyce Creighton’s stall.
We Aussies often call it spinach, but the vegetable with the thick white stalks and crinkled green leaves is actually silverbeet. It’s just as good for you, and can be used in pretty much the same way as spinach – add to salads or green smoothies, in soups like minestrone, pasta dishes and lasagne, saute with butter, onion and garlic for a side, combine with feta and ricotta and roll in puff pastry for cheese and spinach rolls or use in a classic spanakopita. Look for silverbeet at Jumping Red Ant, Summit Organics and Everest Farm.
Another great winter leafy green, kale has earned a cult following among the health conscious in recent years for its impressive nutritional credentials. It packs in more nutrition than almost any other whole food, with high levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamin K, as wells as Omega 3 fatty acids and calcium. According to the experts, you will absorb more of kale’s goodness if you eat it with a fat, so if you’re having it in a salad add some oily dressing, or make kale chips by coating the leaves in olive or coconut oil, adding some salt and baking in a very low oven (About 100 degrees). You can also add kale to soups like minestrone, pasta, stir fries and pizza, saute it with garlic and onion as a breakfast side with eggs, or add it to your green smoothie. You’ll find a few different varieties at the markets, the most common being the dark green Cavalo Nero and the lighter coloured curly kale (best for kale chips). Look for fresh kale at Summit Organics, Everest Farms , Organic Forrest and the Salad Hut.
If there’s one thing that always fills our hearts with gladness during the winter, it’s the local avocado season. Alstonville organic grower, Kate Thompson, of The Organic Avocado, is at the market with her creamy organic avos and Jumping Red Ant also have plenty of these delicious fruits.
There are plenty of these sweet little golden-orange fruits at the market at the moment. Perfect for kids lunchboxes or a snack in your handbag. Rancho Limes has some beautiful organic fruit at the moment, as does The Organic Avocado.
You may have heard of the wonders of Manuka Honey, but what about active Jellybush? Active Jellybush is Australia’s equivalent to New Zealand’s Manuka. Like Manuka, it is the honey produced from bees feeding on the Leptospermum bush, and has the same medicinal qualities that make Manuka so prized. Local beekeeper, Garry Rodgers, of The Honey Wagon, has just harvested a new season batch of Jellybush from his hives near Tyagarah, which independent testing has shown to have extremely high levels of antibacterial activity. Garry says a teaspoon of Jellybush a day will help boost your immune system and fight infection and it can also be used externally as a natural wound healer.
Home-made sauce and soaps are the newest addition to the New Brighton Farmers Market, produced by Billinudgel farmers Andrew Morris and Amanda Callan of Church Farm. The couple’s popular Billinudgel Smoked Hot Sauce contains their own home grown tomatoes onions, turmeric, chillies, ginger garlic and herbs and is great with eggs, meat or anything that needs a spicy kick. Amanda’s soaps are infused with herbs like peppermint and lavender sourced from their garden, as well as local macadamia, olive and hemp seed oils. The Church Farm stall also has a selection of fresh herbs and vegetables.
Freshly picked, crisp and juicy: apples are at their peak in Winter. Apples available from Costanzo Apples or organic growers McMahons.
Church Farm, Summit Organics and Everest Farm all have fresh pumpkin at the moment. Keep your eye out for unusual varieties, such as the gramma (commonly used for gramma pie), which is now available at Glenyce Creighton’s organic stall. Spice Palace also make a delicious pumpkin and macadamia dip- local organic pumpkin sprinkled with chermoula and olive oil and blended with local macadamia nuts.