The struggle of winter is real! The cold snaps we had over the last week had us reaching for comfort foods, and we’re lucky we have such a great variety of fresh produce readily available at your local fruit and veg stores to create some delicious home-cooked meals and stay warm while standing over the stove or in front of the oven.
Let’s start with dessert because the berries are just getting better and better! Raspberries from Caboolture are in full swing and blueberries are increasing in supply from Victoria. Queensland-grown strawberries are of great quality, though there have been some supply interruptions due to rain. For a quick rustic dessert, try a berry galette – first, combine your choice of berries with sugar and cornstarch to make a filling; then, roll out some dough and place the filling in the centre – then fold up the edges and bake it until it’s golden-brown. It’s great with some ice cream!
All citrus is of excellent quality and very good value right now, except limes which are a little dearer. Freshly squeezed orange juice is a treat at any time of the year but the abundance of juicy, red-fleshed Cara Cara navel oranges from Mundubbera is unbeatable. Known for their sweet and tangy flavour, Cara Cara navels are seedless and only in season until August. Other well-supplied citrus includes lemons from Gin Gin, gold kiwifruit from Victoria, and various varieties of mandarins (Imperial, Daisy, and Afourer) from Gayndah.
Rich and creamy North Queensland Hass avocados are a bargain buy along with fibre-rich pears from Victoria, so grab them while you can. Crispy apples, sweet pineapples, and watermelon continue to be well-supplied and are a great addition to fruit bowls.
Passionfruit and pawpaw are short; custard apples and pomegranates are nearing their season’s end, and banana supplies are variable due to the wet weather experienced in some growing regions in April.
In veg, the Market is brimming with local gems such as Bundaberg-grown snow peas, sugar snaps, Gatton-grown onions, butter beans, lettuce, and broccoli from the Lockyer Valley. For roasts, we recommend capsicums and sweet potatoes from Bundaberg, leeks from Severnlea, beetroot, carrots, fennel, and fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme.
Flavoursome eggplants are centre stage at the moment. Currently arriving from Glass House Mountains in good supply, eggplants can be mashed, stewed, or deep-fried. Keep it simple with some lemon and salt, they don’t need much. To gauge their ripeness, lightly press the skin with a finger. If it leaves an imprint, it’s ripe; if not, then let it ripen a little longer.
Cabbage from Redland Bay is another standout this week. For all things, comfort and flavour, try a shrimp and cabbage curry with coriander and finger limes. For a twist on classic potato bakes, soups, and mash, add in some celeriac — it’s great value and adds a distinctive parsley-celery like flavour to meals.
This week’s top pick is humble butternut pumpkin from Bundaberg. Perhaps the most versatile of the vegetables, butternut pumpkins have sweet-tasting flesh and can be steamed, mashed, baked or sauteed. You can buy them in whole or as segments. Look for smooth, uniformly coloured skin with firm flesh. Ripe pumpkins should make a hollow sound when tapped.