WINTER HARVEST

Q: Can you really buy Artichoke brandy?

Recently a fellow food lover lamented that Winter was a “boring time of year for fruit and veg, there just isn’t much to get excited about”. I can understand the sentiment, at this time of year the markets are brimming with root vegetables, cabbages, apples, pears- all wonderfully delicious and versatile but somehow less exotic and alluring than Summer’s bounty. So, in a bulletin designed to kickstart your love affair with winter produce- we are profiling ‘5 Winter lines’ that the team at SG&S are excited about this year and sharing delicious recipes that showcase the delightful potential of these fantastic Winter finds. In the words of Pietro Aretino, “Let us love the winter, for it is the Spring of genius”.

 

WINTER FLAVOURS:

CITRUS:

The winter citrus season is upon us. Mandarins are at the markets and fantastic eating, as are navel oranges. All signs point to a bumper crop this year.

Supply: Mainly QLD and NSW

Mandarins: while available from March – November, these are at their best May – October

Navel Oranges: the winter orange these are available Jun, July and Aug

Blood Oranges: available Jun – late August

Click for Inspiration

 

ARTICHOKES:

While we are still early in the season; globes, baby globes and Jerusalem artichokes are currently available at the markets. They wont be at their nutty best for a few more weeks, but are still a wonderful addition to the menu.

Supply: Mainly NSW and VIC

Baby globe artichokes: good local stock arriving at the markets- at their best Jun- Aug

Globe Artichokes: still early but available. Peak product will be at the markets from June - Sept

Jerusalem Artichokes: already available, at their best from June – Sept

Click for Inspiration

 

USA CHERRIES:

The USA cherry season is always welcome, as it helps us survive the long wait until the Australian season starts up again in November. Expect more lush Bing fruit and creamy Rainiers again this year

Supply: California, Washington and Oregon

Early fruit will be available from next week, with the season traditionally spanning Jun – Aug

Click for Inspiration

 

TURNIPS/SWEDES:

While many believe them to be old-fashioned and dull, in our minds the delicious Tassie Swedes and local Turnips currently at the markets are vintage gourmet. Their peppery flavour and creamy texture, in addition to their nutritional value and affordability makes turnips and swedes a winter favourite at SG&S.

Supply: Turnips – NSW/VIC, Swedes - TAS

Despite being available all year, the cold weather works wonders for these root veges, meaning turnips, baby turnips and swedes are at their best May – Oct

Click for Inspiration

 

TRUFFLES:

While the Australian Truffle industry is relatively young, producers are unearthing spectacular, premium grade truffles from sites across WA and TAS (with small numbers harvested in NSW/ACT and VIC). In fact, last year around 3 tonnes of this noble, perfumed fungus was grown and sold in Australian markets. We can only hope that 2012 sees another bountiful harvest.

Supply: WA and TAS

Following a wonderful season in 2011, 2012 is looking to be just as promising for Australian Truffles with fresh, aromatic truffles expected to be in good supply from early June to August

Click for inspiration!

 

Other items of note for Winter: Star Apple (Jun- Nov), brassicas (in particular cauliflower) are predicted to be top performers this season due to the cold weather. Beans (broad and borlotti) are also expected to have a great winter with main supply now starting.

A: Yes. Known as Rossler it is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented and distilled Jerusalem Artichokes. This nutty-sweet brew has been produced in Baden, Germany since the 1800s and to this day  90% of all Jerusalem Artichokes harvested in the area are dedicated to producing this brandy like spirit.


FULL OF BEANS

Q: What does the term ‘Three Sisters’ have to do with beans? 

After a difficult start due to wet weather conditions, the winter bean season will be kicking into gear over the next few weeks. So to help you get the most of out these nutritious, tasty pods we’re spilling the beans (pardon the pun) on what to watch out for this season. 

Beans have played a powerful role in the development of civilisation as we know it, due to their simple cultivation, high protein/amino-acid content and ability to rejuvenate the soil in which they grow. Beans are loaded with vitamins, minerals and protein which is highly valuable to those who have limited meat in their diet or choose to forego it altogether. 

Fresh beans varieties can be divided into two categories: edible pods and edible seeds. The beans eaten ‘pod and all’ are picked immature and crisp, while shell beans (those we eat for their seeds) are picked when the pods are swollen (but still not fully mature) so the seeds are meaty but tender. If the beans are allowed to fully mature, the resulting seeds are classified as ‘dried’ beans, which require different preparation methods to their fresh counterparts. 

Beyond these distinctions, when buying edible pod varieties such as green beans (or baby green beans), it is important to differentiate between hand and machine picked pods. Machine-picked beans are more cost-effective, however the manner in which they are harvested can cause damage or bruising that blackens when cooked. Therefore if the appearance of the beans is important for the dish, opt for hand-picked, they may be a little more expensive but they are much less likely to display these kinds of flaws. The tough string which gave these beans their ‘string bean’ mantle has now been all but made redundant due to selective breeding of non-string varieties, however some flatter varieties do still need to have the string removed.

Getting the most out of fresh beans can be difficult, with some bean varieties having multiple names, or even worse the same name being applied to completely different beans. Here’s our guide to the beans we’re buying this Autumn/Winter season.  

EDIBLE PODS: 

Image: Simon George & Sons

GREEN BEANS: aka French beans, snap beans, string beans, common beans, haricot vert

What: most common fresh bean in Australia, these are crisp and juicy with barely noticeable seeds 

Availability: all year, best May – Jul and Sept-Oct

Appearance: can be flat or round but all have approximately finger length crisp pods. Most commonly green with small light green seeds inside, however they are also available in pale yellow or purple varieties

Selection: choose beans that are firm, crisp with no soft spots or obvious damage  -avoid those with obvious seed bumps, as this means they are over-mature

Storage: store in a plastic bag in refrigerator, unwashed

Prep: trim stem end, cook uncovered in lots of water to stop the colour darkening 

Best for: stir-fry, blanch and serve as a side-dish or in a salad

 

BABY GREEN BEANS: 

What: small, very immature green beans, slightly more expensive but offer a wonderful crisp, sweet bean flavour

Availability: all year, best May – Jul and Sept-Oct

Appearance: can be flat or round but all have approximately finger length crisp pods. 

Selection: choose beans that are firm, crisp with no soft spots or obvious damage

Storage: store in a plastic bag in refrigerator, unwashed

Prep: trim stem end, cook uncovered in lots of water to stop the colour darkening

Best for: interchangeable with green beans, just more delicate in appearance

 

SNAKE BEANS: aka yard long bean, Chinese long bean

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

What: long, thin green bean very popular in Asian, Middle Eastern cuisines – eaten fresh or cooked

Availability: all year, best Dec-May

Appearance: very long, thin olive-green pod that bends and constricts as it matures

Selection: firm, slender beans with minimal external damage i.e. bruising or yellowing

Storage: best fresh so buy as required, store in plastic bag in refrigerator

Prep: trim stem- end, snake beans are stringless so chop and cook as desired

Best for: Asian and Iraqi cuisine- best stir-fried or braised, otherwise use much like a green bean once chopped (soups, curries, salads)

 

ROMAN BEANS: aka Continental bean, Italian Flat 

Image: Simon George & Sons

What: a large flat bean that is used while immature and crisp

Availability: all year

Appearance: long, flat pale green pod that is slightly curved. 

Selection: bright, firm beans with no signs of bruising or discolouration – should snap when broken

Storage: store in a plastic bag in refrigerator, unwashed

Prep: trim stem end, cook uncovered in lots of water to stop the colour darkening

Best for: used interchangeably with green beans however the flat pod and larger seeds offers a very different texture

 

BUTTER BEANS: aka yellow wax pole beans

Image: Simon George & Sons

What: the yellow green bean

Availability: Dec - Jun

Appearance: yellow pod with slight ridging on the sides, houses small white-pale yellow seeds

Selection: look for crisp, firm pods that are bright in colour 

Storage: store in a plastic bag in refrigerator, unwashed

Prep: trim stem end, cook uncovered in lots of water to stop the colour darkening

Best for: adding colour and crisp, juicy texture to a dish

 

EDIBLE SEEDS: 

BROAD BEANS: aka Lima Beans (dried), Fava Beans (mature)

Image: Simon George & Sons

What: thick bean – grown mainly for the delicious seed, however can be eaten fresh when immature

Availability: Jun – Dec – there are some early season broad beans on the market now but in short supply

Appearance: leathery, round pod with a distinctly pointed tip – changes from green to black-brown as it matures. Seed is large and flat contained within a cotton-like lining

Selection: look for moist, firm beans. Smaller pods mean the beans inside will be smaller but also more delicate of flavour

Storage: store in a plastic bag in refrigerator, unwashed

Pod vs Seed: seed – though when immature and crisp (under 12cm) they are sometimes prepared like a green bean

Prep: double shell for best possible flavour: shell seed, then blanch, drain, rinse and peel off the tough outer skin

Best for: used widely in all manner of ways; in pastas, casseroles, soups, side-dishes, roasting, purees, dips,  salads, 

 

BORLOTTI BEANS: aka cranberry beans

Image: Simon George & Sons

What: variety of kidney bean with a delicious creamy texture and slightly sweet, nutty flavour

Availability: all year, best Mar - May

Appearance: beige pod with purple marbling. Seed is speckled in the same colours as the pod, however they turn light brown when cooked

Selection: fresh, crisp pods that are full and brightly coloured- avoid any with signs of wilting or dampness

Storage: buy as required and store in a plastic bag in refrigerator, unwashed. To prolong life, shell, blanch, drain and freeze in airtight container/bag

Prep: shell and cook gently to prevent its skin from splitting

Best for: Italian and Portuguese cuisines- soups, stews, casseroles and salads

 

A: Broad beans are the only beans native to Europe, all other bean varieties were introduced following the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. It was observed that the indigenous people grew corn (maize), beans and squash together in a system later known as the ‘Three Sisters’. This was sustainable farming at its best!! The corn provided shelter for the squash and a trellis for the bean vines, the beans returned nitrogen to the soil crucial for the growth of the corn and the thick vines and coarse leaves of the squash  deterred predators from trampling or eating the crop. Simply brilliant.  





AUTUMN HARVEST

Q: How long is the rain likely to last?  

Summer is officially gone and with it go the luscious stonefruits, berries and tomatoes that characterise Sydney’s summer menus. So what can we expect from Autumn 2012?

Sydney’s tropical (read: rainy) summer has taken its toll on local produce (especially ground grown crops- herbs, asian vegetables, tomatoes) however consistent supply from interstate has managed to keep the markets relatively stable. Unfortunately, we are now starting to see poor weather impact interstate products and if the rain continues we can expect to see quality and price issues across the board.

On a positive note all this wet weather has brought the elusive Pine Mushrooms to the markets early,  not to mention apple, pears, exotic fruits , cabbage lines and root veg are all looking relatively consistent and are good eating.

 

AUTUMN FLAVOURS:

APPLES/PEARS/QUINCE:
New season apples, pears and quince are abundant in Autumn with almost all varieties of apple and pear available over the course of the season.

Supply: Expected to be consistent bar a significant storms or hail in the growing regions

Inspiration: Vogue Entertaining + Travel’s Spiced Quince and Pears with baked custard

Image Source: www.taste.com.au

 

BEANS:

Beans are a staple of Autumn, with Borlotti, Butter, French, Green, Roman and Snake making an appearance.

Supply: With the rains in QLD/Nth QLD this week the market for beans has turned dramatically with supply very tight and price jumping significantly. With supply directly influenced by the weather we hope to see supply and price improve as the weather clears.

Inspiration: Teage Ezard’s Barbecued ox tongue with southern gold potatoes, snake beans and sticky mustard dressing recipe

Image source: www.sbsfood.com.au

 

CABBAGE:

Hitting the markets earlier than usual, cabbage lines – chinese wombok, red cabbage, Tuscan cabbage – fill the gap left by the slowing lettuce lines.

Supply: Hardier than other ground grown crops, supply should remain consistent. However excessive rain or flooding may cause splitting and as a result supply issues

Inspiration: Jacques Reymond’s Spatchcock & Buttered Cabbage with verjus

Image Source: www.gourmettraveller.com.au

 

EXOTIC FRUITS:

Filling the void of the lush mangoes and berries come the passionfruit, custard apples, breadfruit, persimmon, guava and pomegranates & tamarillos

Supply: Some issues with guava supply at the moment but otherwise looking steady for the season ahead

Inspiration: Kim Woodward’s Butter roasted halibut, lobster salad, coriander pasta and passion fruit sauce

Image Source: www.bbc.co.uk/food

 

NUTS:

Autumn also sees the return of the fresh nuts- with Australian grown pistachios (NOW), almonds (Feb-Mar), Hazelnuts (Feb-Apr), Peanuts (Feb-June) and Chestnuts (Apr- Jul) on the scene!

Supply: When they hit the markets, they hit in force- though they finish all too quickly

Inspiration: Peter Gilmore’s Caramelised Vanilla Brioche French toast

Image source: www.lifestylefood.com.au

 

PUMPKIN:

I recently read a quote that said there were four seasons, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin and Winter. With all lines including Butternut on offer in Autumn, who can blame them.

Supply: Sourced locally, pumpkins are traditionally abundant and great eating for the whole season

Inspiration: Rick Stein’s Pumpkin ravioli with sage butter

Image source: www.bbc.co.uk/food

 

ROOT VEG:

Autumn sees the root veg come into their own with sweet potatoes, horseradish, turnip, parsnip and spud varieties (Royal Blue, Ruby Lou, Pontiac, Desiree, Burbank, Purple Congo) all coming into their own.

Supply: While supply should remain consistent, root veg are susceptible to splitting and rot with too much rain – so lets hope for some clear skies.

Inspiration: Bar H’s Sashimi of striped trumpeter with mushrooms and ginger, horseradish and soy dressing

Image source: www.gourmettraveller.com.au

 

More produce highlights for Autumn: Pine Mushrooms, Celeriac, Fennel, Leeks, Spinach and Silverbeet

 

A: Unfortunately it may last a while yet. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a wetter autumn than average for NSW and SA and a slightly drier season for VIC and TAS. There is a silver lining however, with the BOM describing their outlook model as having ‘low skill over South East NSW’ at this time of year! So you never know, blue skies could be just around the corner.