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.


Image: Provided

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)

Image: SG&S

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.


Q: How do Asian Melons relate to sweeter melon varieties? 

If there’s one food trend that is getting a lot of airplay this year, it’s ‘authenticity’. At the heart of the trend is the consumer's preference for traditional cooking methods, flavour combinations and produce- all of which result in an authentic dining experience not easily replicated at home.

The produce markets show clear evidence of this trend, with Asian and exotic produce lines in particular taking up more of the market floor and increasing in abundance.  In the spirit of authenticity, we have dedicated our bulletin this week to Asian Melons, which are abundant and fantastic eating at this time of year. Asian Melons are affordable and at their peak in summer, so now is the ideal time to use their unique texture and flavour to full effect.


CHI QUA: (Hairy Melon, Fuzzy gourd)- staple of the Chinese diet


Appearance: 20-25 cm long cylindrical fruit

Skin: green with fine hairs covering the rind

Look for: HAIR! Hair is a sign of freshness

Storage/Shelf life: Store in a cool place (not fridge) where they will stay fresh for several weeks

Flavour: Mild, not unlike zucchini

Usage: Peel- slice, dice, shred or stuff. Add to soups, steam, stir-fry or bake


DONG QUA: (Winter Melon)- closely related to Chi Qua


Appearance: large and heavy, round to oblong (akin to a watermelon if not bigger)

Skin: green with white blotches, caused by a layer of wax (easily removed)

Storage/Shelf life: whole melons with the wax coat intact will keep for over a month refrigerated, once cut best use them in under a week

Flavour: mild to bland – texture like a zucchini

Usage: holds shape well when cooked- used in may Asian soups, stews and curries. Also, stuffed and baked, pickled and candied


LONG MELON: (opo squash) - closely related to the Hairy Melon


Appearance: thin, large, cylindrical – like a cucumber

Skin: light green with a waxy coating (young melons have fuzz but this is lost with maturity)

Storage/Shelf life: whole melons with the wax coat intact will keep for a week or so, once cut best use them in a few days

Flavour: Similar to zucchini or squash when young however as matures gets more bitter

Usage: Peel- slice, dice, shred or stuff. Add to soups, steam, stir-fry or bake


SZE QUA: (Smooth luffa, Sponge luffa, Sponge Gourd)


Appearance: large, green, cylindrical fruit

Skin: smooth (slightly ribbed) with pale stripes

Storage/Shelf life: Store in a cool place (not fridge) where it will keep for 2-3 weeks

Flavour: mild flavour and slightly spongy texture

Usage: young smooth luffas are used much like a zucchini or squash. Usage varies from soups, stews and curries to drying and frying. Very small fruits can also be eaten raw or pickled


SIN QUA: (Angled luffa, Silk Gourd, Chinese Okra)

Image: Department of Primary Industries- NSW

Appearance: long, slender fruit, between 15-40cm in length

Skin: 10 deep ridges running from end to end

Storage/Shelf life: while they can be stored for a time, they lose water easily so it is best to use them promptly

Look for: bright, glossy, firm fruit

Flavour: mild flavour and slightly spongy texture. The younger fruits are less fibrous and taste slightly sweeter

Usage: once hard ridges have been removed (potato peeler works a treat) they can be steamed, stir-fried, grated or added to soups or curries


FU QUA: (Bitter Melon, Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Cucumber)- considered a medicinal fruit due to its high vitamin and mineral content

Image: Department of Primary Industries- NSW

Appearance: oblong shape

Skin: warty skin with ridges down the length of the fruit. The bumps are characteristic to variety, Chinese/Japanese cuisine tends to favour the smoother light green varieties, while the Vietnamese and Indians prefer the darker, narrower fruit with very prominent ridges and warts

Storage/Shelf life: fruit continues to ripen after harvest and should be used promptly as the more mature the fruit the more bitter it will be. Bitter Melon also emits ethylene and should not be stored with bananas, tomatoes, mango, papaya and guava

Look for: fruit that is uniform of colour (green) and 15-25cm long. As they mature they turn yellow- at this stage they can be nigh on inedible

Flavour: All parts of the bitter melon are extremely ‘bitter’

Usage: While not usually peeled, rough parts of the skin can be scraped off. The pith of the green fruit should be removed as the seeds can have a purgative effect.  The bitterness can be eased by salting the flesh and rinsing (like with eggplant). Fu Qua can be boiled, stuffed and baked, steamed, stir-fried or ever used in salads when sliced thinly. Their flavour suits strong flavoured ingredients such as black bean paste, garlic or chilli.


A:  They may taste very different but they are all in fact one big happy family. Each of the Asian Melons listed above belong the Cucurbitaceae family which also includes rockmelons, watermelons, muskmelons (honeydew), pumpkin, squash and cucumbers. Despite appearances, the Hairy Melon, Winter Melon and Long Melon are even more closely related, for while they may look very different they are varieties of the same species.