Q: What do SG&S buyers look for in their produce?
The off-peak season has hit Sydney and with the half-way point of the year fast approaching, now is an ideal time to reflect on the year that has been and kick-start your plans for the year to come. In our first bulletin of 2012, I talked about working ‘smarter not harder’ by monitoring the markets and staying a step ahead of fluctuations in both supply and price. Many of you have done just that and participated in one of our guided tours of the Sydney Markets, but for those of you yet to take part or for those seeking further inspiration, we invite you to put yourself in the driver’s seat and join us for an early morning, hands-on exploration of Sydney’s seasonal produce.
These tours enable chefs, procurement managers and other interested parties to experience first-hand how the range, quality and supply of different produce lines fluctuate throughout the year and how this then influences our buyer’s purchasing decisions. We encourage all our clients to take part in a market tour at least once a year, as they not only assist in menu planning, but also help SG&S to stay abreast of the changing needs of your kitchen and ultimately improve the service we provide. To whet the appetite, below are some insights into produce items/classifications that have recently raised interest at our market tours.
Information on potatoes and best use by variety has to be one of our most ‘Frequently Asked Questions’. With over 66 varieties of tatties commercially grown in Australia, talking directly to the grower/agent, cutting them open and seeing their consistency (floury/waxy etc) can help answer these questions and aid in selection.
Availability: Winter crop
Appearance: naturally coloured with the same antioxidants as red grapes, the purple jester has a dark purple skin and bright purple flesh
Characteristics: full potato flavour and aroma
Best for: impact and quality in salads, small baked potato sides etc. Very versatile the purple jester can be baked, roasted, boiled, steamed
Availability: Mar – Nov
Appearance: light green- yellow thick skin and pale yellow flesh
Characteristics: sweet, mild grapefruit flavour
Best for: fresh consumption
Availability: Jun – Nov
Appearance: light green- yellow thick skin and pink flesh
Characteristics: sharper flavour than white variety
Best for: use like a pomegranate in salads or similar dishes
Similarly to potatoes there is an abundance of wonderful tomatoes at the markets. With the susceptibility of tomatoes to weather damage however it is helpful to handle and taste different varieties that could substitute for traditional romas or cherries in the kitchen.
Availability: all year
Appearance: small round tomatoes with distinctively striped skin and flesh that varies from a deep green to red-brown
Characteristics: sweet, aromatic flavour
Best for: substitute for cherry tomatoes for high impact colour and a sweet tomato flavour
GOLF BALL: (refers to size rather than variety)
Availability: all year
Appearance: round, red tomato approximately the size of a golf ball
Characteristics: consistent in size, shape, flesh, seeds like a small gourmet tomato
Best for: great as a substitute for Romas and for portion control i.e. breakfast or salad tomato. Also good for roasting whole
As explored in our recent ‘Full of Beans’ bulletin, green beans are sold under classifications of machine picked, hand-picked and baby. Being on site at the markets, inspecting the quality of the beans and sampling their flavour, really is the best way to truly understand these distinctions and which is most suitable to your needs (and budget).
A: Each season the markets see new lines hitting the stands in response to agricultural development and changing culinary tastes, it also sees changing climate conditions and therefore hits and misses from our farmers and their harvests. Every foodservice business is different and as a result each client has individual needs and preferences relating to size, colour, and the maturity of their produce. To meet these needs and stay ahead of the changing market landscape, the buying team at Simon George & Sons works closely with over 400 growers/sellers, filtering through the 2.5 million tonnes of fresh fruit and veges sold at the Sydney Markets each year to source the highest quality produce for our clients at the best possible price.