Q: Why is Australian white asparagus priced significantly higher than green?
The end of August is always a period of transition for food lovers, however this year seems especially tough- cold weather along the Eastern Seaboard is slowing supply and hiking up prices on a long list of produce items, ironically just in time for the start of the busy season and there is absolutely nothing on TV that comes close to filling the void left by the Olympics. To put the Spring back in your step and assist with menu planning for the next few months, here are our produce highlights for the coming season. We have included some nutritional information as there’s nothing like feeling good about what you’re eating to make it taste even better on the palate.
The arrival of the Australian Asparagus season is getting closer with quality spears predicted to arrive at the markets for the first week of September. In particular the arrival of the sweet, tender, home-grown white asparagus is much anticipated due to its premium quality, texture and gourmet aesthetic.
Supply: Early crops from QLD, main crop from VIC
Green Asparagus: all year, Australian produce best Sept- Dec
Baby Green Asparagus: all year, best Sept- Dec
Purple Asparagus: Oct- Dec
White Asparagus: Sept – Jan
Feel Good Factor: excellent source of Vitamin C & E, dietary fibre, folate and potassium
Inspiration: Confit of Suffolk lamb loin, fresh milk curd, asparagus, spring onions, broad beans, young leeks, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, quinoa, pea flowers, nasturtiums – Peter Gilmore via Lifestyle Food
Australian Garlic is world’s apart from the imported product available throughout the year and its season is something I have come to get excited about and support every year by paying a premium price for a premium product. For a more comprehensive overview of the garlic varieties currently grown in Australia, their seasonality and characteristics, click here.
Supply: Main growing regions are SA, VIC ,NSW with some early crops from QLD
Australian Garlic Season: October – May
Spring Garlic: available October
Green Garlic: available November
Feel Good Factor: natural antibiotic, also assists in management of blood pressure & cholesterol
Inspiration: Tamworth pork terrine, roast garlic purée, deep fried egg and artichoke – Kevin Mangeolles via Great British Chefs
Early Northern Territory mangoes are already arriving at the markets and while they are not yet great eating, it is a sign of the luscious, warm weather and tropical flavours to come. Sydney Markets will be holding its annual mango auction on September 5th heralding the official opening of the mango season, last year the auction raised $30,000 ($2,500/mango) for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Westmead Children’s Hospital. For more information on mango varieties and Australian seasons click here
Supply: NT opens the season (peaking around October), before main producer QLD enters the market around November
Feel Good Factor: very high in Vit C and A. Rich source of beta-carotene, fibre and potassium
Inspiration: Mango salsa and coconut heart salad recipe- Peter Kuravita via SBS Food
SHISO LEAF: aka Perillo
Shiso Leaf is available in red and green varieties, the red (with its anise and subtle mint flavour) is the most popular in Australia and is used widely in Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine (where traditionally the leaves were used to dye pickled ume or were mixed with ume paste in sushi). While available pretty much all year, Shiso is at its best Nov – Mar
Supply: SG&S predominantly sources our Shiso from local NSW producers
Feel Good Factor: high in calcium, iron and potassium, rich in fiber, very high in Vit A and C. Believed to have anti-inflammatory properties
Inspiration: Duck yakitori with pumpkin, shiso and daikon salad and plum dipping sauce – via Gourmet Traveller
PEPINO: aka Sweet Pepino, Melon Pear
Spring is undeniably the start of the mango and stonefruit season but if you’re looking for something different why not try the pepino. With its distinctive purple stripes, yellow flesh and a juicy flavour reminiscent of melon, banana and pear (depending on who you ask)– it is perfect for spicing up the breakfast menu or adding a twist to sweet and savoury spring salads.
Supply: QLD produces fruit in Spring and Autumn
Feel Good Factor: good source offibre, Vitamin A, B and C
Inspiration: Wild Mexican Shrimp Escabeche with Pepino Melon, Popped Corn, Jicama Salsa – Bernard Guillas via Restaurant Hospitality
Yam Oka: aka NZ Yam, Oka Yam, Oca
Originally from South America, these sweet tubers offer a wonderful alternative to winter root vegetable lines with their smaller size, tangy, nut flavour and silky texture. Eat with the skin on to get maximum nutritional value, the skin is thin and edible and ensures the yam holds shape when cooked.
Supply: coming from QLD, best in July (season runs for 6-8 weeks)
Feel Good Factor: good source offibre, Vitamin A, B and C
Inspiration: Yam, kumara and pumpkin coconut curry
Other items of note for Spring: As the weather warms, the markets will start to come alive with tropical fruits and a wider range of vegetables. Other items to watch out for this Spring include stonefruit (Oct/Nov), berries, chillies, sweetcorn, radishes, edible flowers, watercress and okra.
A: There are two reasons. Firstly, the Australian white asparagus season is brief and given its popularity among food-service professionals (and increasingly with home cooks) demand tends to outstrip supply. The second reason is production costs. To achieve its colour, white asparagus is grown in the dark, preventing sunlight from turning the shoots green. Traditionally this was achieved by keeping the asparagus crown submerged beneath a mound of dirt and using specialised equipment to blind harvest– which led to reduced yields as it was difficult to perform without damaging the crop. Many Australian farmers now employ an innovative system that sees white asparagus grown beneath black polyhouses- essentially a large dark greenhouse, a huge step forward, this farming method achieves wonderful colour, flavour and allows for simpler harvesting practices.