Q: Why are some pineapples sold topless?

As far as fresh produce goes, I have always considered pineapples to be relatively straightforward (despite the ongoing debate as to whether they belong on a pizza- or burger for that matter). The pineapple industry in Australia is very QLD centric with top quality fruit being produced from Brisbane to Cooktown, though small amounts produced in Northern NSW and the NT deserve a mention. For many years, Australians buying pineapples lived by the general rule that smooth varieties are larger and juicier, whereas rough leaf fruit are smaller and sweeter. Over the last 15-20 years however this has changed, with cross-breeding of the existing smooth, rough and Hawaiian varieties producing a number of hybrid fruits that offer consumers the best of both worlds. With most pineapple varieties currently performing well at the markets, our bulletin this week is dedicated to the tropics favourite  prickly character.

Before we break it down by variety, here are some insights which are true for all pineapples:

Selection: No matter which variety you buy it is important to note that pineapples may get juicier after harvesting but they don’t sweeter so choose plump fruit that has no bruising/blemishes and boasts a fresh, sweet (but not too sweet) pineapple fragrance.

Nutritional Benefits: pineapples are a fantastic source of Vitamin C with 100gm of some of the hybrid fruits delivering the entire recommended daily intake.  They are also a great source of dietary fibre and a good source of Manganese


STANDARD PINEAPPLE: aka Smooth Cayenne




Availability: All year round, peaks in summer/warmer temperatures

Appearance: smooth with top

Flesh: pale yellow flesh

Flavour: juicy, slightly acidic, not as sweet as rough skin or the new hybrid varieties

Big deal: historically this has bee the canning pineapple – however still fantastic fresh.


BETHONGA: aka Bethonga Gold Hybrid/Topless Gold


Availability: all year, best Sept-May

Appearance: smooth, topless, slightly smaller than smooth cayenne

Flesh: richgold colour, less fibrous

Flavour: low acidity makes them more aromatic and sweeter in flavour than smooth cayenne

Big deal: less likely to cause the mouth blisters commonly associated with pineapples



Image: SGS

Availability: Aug - Mar

Appearance: small pineapple with leaves, still attached to the stem

Flavour: N/A

Best use: display purposes

Big deal: These miniature fruits are beautiful and add a quirky twist to a display/centerpiece.




Availability: all year, peaks Dec/Jan

Appearance: rough skin with top on, small fruit

Flesh: gold/yellow flesh that is drier and more fibrous than Smooth Cayenne

Flavour: delicate, mild pineapple flavour that makes it lovely fresh

Big deal: more of a niche product, it keeps well and has a lovely crisp texture




Availability: all year, best Nov-Mar

Appearance: smooth yellow skin, small fruit, topless

Flesh: flesh is yellow, firm and crunchy

Flavour: very sweet, strong pineapple aroma with a hint of coconut

Big deal: this variety was born & bred in Australia, therefore it tends to delivers top quality fruit year round- it also has twice the Vit C of the Smooth Cayenne




Availability: all year

Appearance: green/yellow smooth skin, topless

Flesh: much darker yellow/gold than smooth cayenne

Flavour: very sweet, low acid

Big deal: hybrid of rough skin and Hawaiian Gold, consistently good performer year round


A: This is a trend with the newer hybrid varieties on the market which are often trademarked by commercial partners. The tops of pineapples are removed and replanted, which considering each plant produces 1 pineapple every 2 years is a crucial part of ensuring the increased productivity and commercial availability of these new varieties. The cynics among us might also conclude that it is an effective strategy for trademark companies to protect their brand, as consumers and/or competitors are unable to use cuttings from purchased fruit to produce their own stock.  


Q: What is the difference between Paw-Paw and Papaya?

There is a common misnomer that Winter is ‘Apple and Pear’ season due to the shortage of bright, tropical summer fruits. In truth, there are a myriad of tropical and other fruit varieties available at the markets during winter; each offering unique textures, flavours and twist to your menu. So over the coming weeks, while pineapples, melons and figs are predicted to be in short supply and up in price why not try something new. Below we have featured a range of fruits that are both good quality and in good supply at the markets – making them smart buying this Winter.



While berry season (Nov – Feb) is still some time away, we are seeing some lovely fruit at the markets at the moment. QLD strawberries have suffered a little from recent rain and are experiencing some quality issues, however overall supply and standard is good for strawberries, blueberries and raspberries (red).


CARAMBOLA: StarFruit, 5 corner, Bilimbing, Yang Tao


Currently sourced from: QLD

Availability: Available all year- peak production April/May, Jul/Oct, Dec/Jan

Appearance:  distinctive 5 winged fruit with waxy green-yellow skin

Flesh: transparent- yellow to white

Flavour:  crisp, juicy - sweet (yellow) to slightly tart (green). The edges/tips of the wings have the most acid/tannins and are therefore the most astringent

Selection: firm bright fruit with clean, waxy skin

Preparation: can be eaten fresh - slicing achieves the distinctive star shape for platters, salads, desserts and seafood dishes


CUMQUATS: aka kumquats


Currently sourced from: QLD

Availability: autumn/winter

Appearance: small orange fruits with a thin peel that are round-oval in shape

Flesh: segmented yellow-orange flesh

Flavour: intense, sweet-sour flavour,- most often candied, glazed or preserved though can be eaten fresh or even in liqueur

Selection: start to deteriorate once picked so look for robust, bright fruit with no obvious damage on skin


KIWIFRUIT: aka Chinese Gooseberry

Currently sourced from: NZ

Selection: firm, full fruit with no blemishes

Preparation: while many choose to forgo, the entire fruit is edible including the skin

GREEN: Hayward

Availability: Local: Mar-Jul, NZ: Jun-Dec

Appearance: egg shaped fruit with fuzzy, light-brown skin

Flesh: rich green flesh with small edible black seeds

Flavour: tangy, sweet


Availability: Jun – Sept

Appearance: egg shaped fruit with smooth, golden-brown skin

Flesh: gold flesh with less seeds than the green variety

Flavour: sweeter than Haywards




Currently sourced from: QLD

Availability: all year

Appearance: lighter purple skin than other varieties, with white flecks

Flesh: orange pulp with lots of hard, black seeds(more pulp than black passionfruit)

Flavour: intensely refreshing- tangy (slightly acidic) flavour

Selection: fruit that is heavy for size, smooth and firm

Preparation: eaten fresh from casing or used in desserts


PAPAYA: aka Paw-Paw

Currently sourced from: QLD

Availability: all year with peaks May/June and Sept/Oct

Appearance: looks like an elongated melon with smooth, thin green-yellow skin

Selection: look for fragrant, well shaped fruit, no discolouration or soft spots

Preparation: unlike many fruits it can be cut without discolouration, eaten fresh, in salads or as a accompaniment to seafood or chicken.


Appearance: firm, dark orange-red flesh

Flavour: fragrant, sweet, succulent – similar to rockmelon


Appearance: rounder & larger than red variety, it has yellow skin and soft yellow flesh

Flavour: fragrant, juicy, sweet- milder than red papaya


Appearance: a green unripe fruit from either varieties listed above (commonly red papaya due to their fuller flavour)

Flavour: oil hands and knife prior to cutting (unripe papaya release a latex fluid which can cause allergic reactions) – used as a vegetable in Asian cuisines, suitable for pickles, salads and vegetables in curries


YELLOW DRAGON FRUIT: aka Pitaya Amarillo, S. megalanthus


Currently sourced from: QLD

Availability: Main fruiting May- Jun – good quality fruit available, will be winding up in next few weeks

Appearance: med–large oval fruit with distinctive yellow skin and pointy scales

Flesh: clear-white with edible black seeds

Flavour: often lauded as the best tasting due to its higher sugar levels- crisp kiwi/melon flavours, delicately sweet and mild

Selection: look for bright fruit that gives slightly under pressure

Preparation: chilled and eaten fresh or used in gelatos, ice-creams, sorbets, cocktails etc

A: Nothing. Paw-Paw and Papaya are actually different varieties of the species Carica papaya- though in Australia we tend to refer to the yellow fruit as ‘paw-paw’ and the red as ‘papaya’. Native to the Americas and first cultivated in Mexico, this tropical fruit is highly nutritious and unfortunately under-used in Australian cuisine due to the popularity of melon varieties.





Q: What gives a pear its unique melting texture?

While the cold weather is having an adverse reaction on many fruit and veg lines, apples and pears are a reliable addition to the menu with quality consistent and stock readily available. With harvesting taking place between Jan-May each year, apple and pear varieties have been relatively unaffected by recent weather and therefore will be both good quality and in steady supply over the coming months.

Having recently discussed apple varieties, the bulletin this week explores the pear varieties currently available in Australia. While often overlooked, pears are still a key player in the horticulture industry and are growing in popularity. In fact, Australian pear production increased by 30% last year taking it to more than 123,000 tonnes. While Victoria still accounts for the majority of Australia’s production at 88%, our local farmers are upping the ante with NSW increasing production by 63% in 2010/2011.  

The secret to enjoying pears is knowing which pear to eat when. A pear eaten too early is an opportunity missed, as it has not yet had a chance to develop its full flavour and the unique, buttery texture. As stated by Edward Bunyard, author of The Anatomy of Dessert, "The pear must be approached, as its feminine nature indicates, with discretion and reverence; it withholds its secrets from the merely hungry." So with a little reverence, here’s our guide to getting the most of winter pears:


Fast Facts:

Selection: Look for fairly firm, fragrant fruit that is unblemished. 

Storage: Store firm, unripe fruit at room temperature until it changes to a ripe yellow and/or gives a little when pressed at the stem. Once ripe, keep in refrigerator and use quickly.

Preparation: Handle gently, pears bruise easily. Once cut, brush surfaces with citrus juice to prevent discolouration prior to serving




Available: Mar – Oct, best Apr – May

Appearance: med to largepear with an elongated neck, green-brown skin and a golden-brown russet that darkens as it ripens

Flesh: juicy, white flesh

Flavour: aromatic, sweet, buttery and juicy

Best use: great all-rounder. Suitable for most cooking methods and lovely fresh. Often used for poaching


CORELLA: aka Forelle Pears


Available: April – end August

Appearance: squat with a bright, glossy pink-red blush on green – yellow base

Flesh: tender, soft white to creamy yellow flesh

Flavour: sweet and juicy

Best use: fresh – striking addition to salads

Watch for: sometimes smaller fruit is sold as baby corellas, these retain the unique flavour and are practical for salads and portion control


HONEY: aka Winter Nelis, Quall


Available: Mar - Nov

Appearance: small – medium in size, squat, round pears with green, heavily russetted skin that yellows when ripe

Flesh: creamy white

Flavour: tender, sweet, buttery– very juicy and aromatic

Best use: very versatile- good cooked and fresh


JOSEPHINE: aka Josephine de Malines


Available: Apr –Aug

Appearance: medium sized fruit withlight-green soft skin and slight russet

Flesh: fine grained, creamy yellow-white

Flavour: rich, juicy and very sweet

Best use: excellent fresh eating variety




Available: Mar – Nov (best May – Aug)

Appearance: medium, round fruit with yellow-green slightly rough skin (can be flecked with white or brown depending on variety)

Flesh: creamy white, crisp and juicy flesh (like an apple)

Flavour: subtly sweet with medium sugar and high acid

Best use: its crisp texture makes it an interesting apple substitute for a variety of dishes (salads, cheese platters) or eaten fresh


PACKHAM: aka Packhams Triumph


Available: Mar – Dec (best- May-Jun)

Appearance: med – large green pear (turns golden yellow when ripe) with a short neck (skin can sometimes appear bumpy)

Flesh: white and slightly firm yet juicy

Flavour: juicy and sweet

Best use: great baked in desserts, poached or fresh


RED D’ANJOU: aka Red Angou


Available: Apr - Nov

Appearance: medium sized, deep red fruit with yellow-green mottling

Flesh: fine, white flesh

Flavour: juicy

Best use: salads


A: It is the unique texture of the pear that sets it apart from its popular pome brethren. From harvest to consumption the quality of a pear is reliant on knowing when to act. If allowed to stay on the tree too long, the pear develops a gritty, coarse texture as it ripens. To avoid this, farmers pick their pears when mature (but not ripe) and then hold them in cold storage (a key step in achieving their unique character) before they hit the markets and begin to ripen naturally. As pears ripen from the inside it can be difficult to gauge when to indulge, but it is worth the wait. If you press the point where the stem meets the neck and if it gives evenly without applying proper pressure – then the pear is ready to melt in your mouth.


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.  


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



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


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



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.  


Q: What plant did these vastly different vegetables stem from?

While they may seem an unlikely grouping, the Winter vegetables listed below are all from the same species. They are all classified as cultivars of Brassica Oleracea, one of the world’s most diverse plant species which includes kale, collard greens, broccoli, broccolini, chinese broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi. Due to human cultivation and careful selection over thousands of years, the various cultivars of Brassica Oleracea have grown to be distinctively different in both appearance and flavour. One thing they all share however, is their nutritional value, supplying much needed Vitamin C, A, K, Dietary Fibre and Folate during the cooler winter months.  What is often overlooked when talking about Brassica Oleracea is the wonderful diversity of textures, flavours and colour they can bring to a winter menu.  



Availability: all year, best May – Sept
Appearance: tightly formed head of flowers on thick, green stalks. Flowers range from blue-green to purple in colour
Selection: avoid heads with open or yellowed flowers, as these have a bitter taste
Storage: in vented plastic bag in refrigerator
Prep: cook lightly to retain flavour and nutritional value
Claim to Fame: Australia’s 10th largest vegetable crop, broccoli is considered a super-food due to its anti-cancer properties and nutritional value

Click for Inspiration!




Availability: all year, best May – Sept
Appearance: white ‘curd’ (tightly packed florets) on a thick white stem
Selection: avoid brown discolouration of the curd and look for fresh leaves at the base of the curd (if still attached)
Storage: remove thick, outer leaves and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator
Prep: cut into florets and wash under cool water. It’s subtle creamy, nutty flavour make it perfect roasted, braised or fried in a warm winter salad, as a side-dish, pureed in soups or pickled
Claim to fame: good raw or cooked, cauliflower is packed with dietary fibre, folate and vitamin C

Click for Inspiration!




Availability: all year, best May – Sept
Appearance: purple ‘curd’ (tightly packed florets) on a thick white-purple stem
Selection: avoid brown discolouration of the curd and look for fresh leaves at the base of the curd (if still attached)
Storage: remove thick, outer leaves and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator
Prep: in the same manner as cauliflower
Claim to fame: vibrant purple colour caused by anthocyanins (antioxidant also found in red wine and red cabbage), delivers a sweeter, nuttier flavour than its white counterpart

Click for Inspiration!




Availability:  all year – best April to late August
Appearance:  looks like a cauliflower that has a light green tinted curd
Selection: similarly to cauliflower look for tightly pressed florets with no discolouration
Storage: remove thick, outer leaves and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator
Prep: in the same way as you would cauliflower – steam, stir-fry, or use in salads, crudités or dips
Claim to fame: a cross between cauliflower & broccoli, broccoflower is milder and sweeter than either parent and is high in Vitamin C




Availability: all year
Appearance:  long, thin stems topped with small florets of tight green flowers (can also get purple sprouting broccolini)
Selection: look for glossy, bright green stalks and florets
Storage: in sealed plastic bag in refrigerator
Prep: wash, trim stalk and stir-fry, steam or boil
Claim to Fame: An Australian development, broccolini is a cross between broccoli & Japanese kale- it has an intense broccoli flavour yet looks more delicate on the plate

Click for Inspiration!


CHINESE BROCCOLI: aka Gai-lan, Kai-lan, Chinese Kale


Availability: all year
Appearance: long white-green stem, large dark green leaves and a small number of tiny florets  
Selection: look for clean, crisp leaves, firm stems
Storage: loosely closed plastic bag in refrigerator
Prep: rinse, then snap florets and leaves from stem. Most often used chopped into stir-fries or as a side-dish. Can be steamed, blanched, braised or stir-fried
Claim to Fame: no wastage, both stem and leaves are eaten. Has a slightly stronger broccoli flavour, which can be slightly bitter

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Availability: all year, best in Jun –Aug or November
Appearance: compact head of leaves that can be round, conical, loose or tight- with creamy white to green leaves and small white veins
Selection: choose heads that are heavy for size, with crisp, bright leaves
Storage: in bag in refrigerator
Prep: chop with a knife and use quickly to make the most of the flavour and nutrition.
Claim to fame: historically used as both food & medicine. It is very low in kilojoules but high in vitamin C, folate, potassium and dietary fibre

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Availability: all year, best Mar - May
Appearance: compact head of smooth red-purple leaves with small white veins
Selection: choose heads that are heavy for size, with crisp, bright leaves
Storage: in bag in refrigerator
Prep: when cooking add lemon or vinegar to water to protect colour, beware of colour bleeding into other ingredients
Claim to fame: has been used for pickling since the middle ages, however also lovely braised

Click for Inspiration!




Availability: all year
Appearance: round to elongated cabbage with wrinkly leaves that have serrated margins. Colour can be anywhere between yellow-green to blue-green
Selection: look for bright, fresh leaves and a head that is heavy for its size (though be aware that Savoy being less tightly furled that your standard green will be lighter)
Storage: place in plastic bag and store in fridge
Prep: prepare similarly to green cabbage, remove outer leaves and rinse before shredding into coleslaw, steaming, etc. Leaves can also be used to wrap ingredients
Claim to fame: slightly sweet with a tender crunch, Savoy is perfect for coleslaw. Often used in the place of green cabbage

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TUSCAN CABBAGE: aka Cavalo Nero, black cabbage, Tuscan kale


Availability: all year
Appearance: sold in bunches of long dark green leaves. The leaves are heavily bubbled with a thick, white vein from stem to tip
Selection: look for firm, plump stalks and bright, fresh leaves
Storage: store unwashed in a sealed plastic bag in fridge
Prep: traditionally used in soups and pastas or steamed, this is also a fantastic stir-fry vegetable. Tuscan cabbage can survive longer cooking times without turning to mush and is also eaten raw (without the vein)
Claim to fame: used both raw and cooked, Tuscan cabbage has a mild cabbage flavour which can sometimes be a little bitter. Quintessential cabbage for Italian dishes.  SG&S also sells ‘black cabbage’ - a salad mix of baby Tuscan Cabbage leaves that taste similar but are more tender and delicate

Click for Inspiration!


WOMBOK: aka Wong bok, Chinese Cabbage, Chinese leaves, Celery Cabbage


Availability: all year, best in May or between Sept - Dec
Appearance: elongated cabbage with large, broad leaves that are pale green with white ribs and veins. The leaves are not as tightly packed as ballhead etc
Selection: look for fresh, crisp leaves with no blemishes
Storage: loosely closed plastic bag in refrigerator
Prep: all purpose cabbage. Absorbs flavours so is fantastic in casseroles, stir-fries, soups or pickled (as with kimchi). Alternatively shred into dumplings, coleslaw, salads or burgers
Claim to fame: While not technically from Brassica Oleracea, this is so widely considered  a cabbage we have included it in this summary. Renowned for its good shelf life, mild, sweet flavour and crunchy texture, its leaves have a slight pepper flavour while the ribs are juicy, mild and sweet.  

Click for Inspiration!




Availability: Mar - Sept
Appearance: look like tiny, green ballhead cabbages
Selection: look for small, firm, compact heads with fresh, green leaves
Storage: store untrimmed in plastic bag in the fridge
Prep: trim stem, remove tatty outer leaves then cut a shallow cross into the stem , this assists in even cooking. Do not overcook or a sulphur like odour will be released, drain thoroughly. Roasted with pancetta to bring out a lovely sweet, nutty flavour, alternatively boil, deep-fry, stir-fry or steam
Claim to Fame: Far out Brussels Sprout, these mini cabbages are undervalued as bitter old varieties and overcooking have given them a bad reputation. High in Vitamin C and K they are also shown to assist in cancer prevention

Click for Inspiration!


A: All Brassica Oleracea cultivars are believed to have been derived from Wild Cabbage which was native to the limestone cliffs of England and France (think the white cliffs of Dover) thousands of years ago. The Romans and Greeks were known to have cultivated cabbage widely in their gardens and according to ‘Classical’ texts by Theophrastus and Pliny, diverse cultivars were already available. Over thousands of years Wild Cabbage has seen every trait manipulated to our culinary needs. With the Cambridge World History of Foods still citing over 400 types of cabbage, we can only imagine how many Brassica Oleracea variants have come and gone.


Q: What is the French Paradox and what does it have to do with grapes? 

In the spirit of the NSW Wine Festival taking place in Hyde Park this weekend, our bulletin this week is dedicated to the world’s fifth largest fruit crop- grapes. While an estimated 71% of grapes are destined to become wine, an impressive 27%, equivalent to around 18 million tonnes, are consumed fresh each year (FAO, 2007).

Home grown grapes are available in Australia from November to May. There are hundreds of varieties available, so many stores categorise them based on their colour and whether they have a seed. However, the different varieties do have slightly different flavours, shapes and textures, so to help you choose the right grape to go with your cheese platter and glass of vino, here’s the lowdown on Aussie grapes.

Selection & Storage: 

As a general rule, for a good grape look to the stem. If it is green, firm and well attached then the fruit should be sweet and juicy.

In red and black grapes look for a light white coat on the fruit. This coating is 100% natural and protects the fruit from damage- the less coating, the more handling and longer storage time the grape will have seen. (It is also present on green varieties, but hard to see)

If you see green grapes with an amber hue, snap them up. This indicated they were ripened on the vine for longer and as with tomatoes, the longer the fruit sits on the vine, the better the flavour.


Table grapes have been selectively bred to cater to consumer preferences for sweet, seedless varieties- below are our top 4 in terms of production.

MENINDEE SEASON: early season 


Available: Dec - Feb

Colour: light green – yellow

Size/Shape: small to medium oval

Texture: firm flesh

Flavour: sweet, very slightly tart

Seeds: No



Available: Jan - May

Colour: pale golden green

Size/Shape: medium oblong

Texture: delicate skin, firm flesh

Flavour: sweet, juicy

Seeds: no




Available: Feb - May

Colour: light red

Size/Shape: medium oval

Texture: thick skin, crisp flesh

Flavour: neutral, juicy

Seeds: no




Available: Dec - May

Colour: pink-red

Size/Shape: very large, round

Texture: crisp, fleshy

Flavour: very sweet

Seeds: yes


Other varieties worth a mention include: 



Available: Jan - Apr

Colour: blue- black

Size/Shape: medium round

Texture: firm skin, soft juicy flesh

Flavour: excellent sweet, musky flavour

Seeds: yes




Available: Jan - May

Colour: red – purple

Size/Shape: large, round

Texture: soft skin, juicy flesh

Flavour: distinctively sweet

Seeds: yes




Available: Nov - Mar

Colour: dark red

Size/Shape: medium, round

Texture: crisp, crunchy

Flavour: slightly tart

Seeds: no


RIBIERS: very popular dark grape variety


Available: Feb - May

Colour: black

Size/Shape: large, round

Texture: crisp skin, tender and juicy pulp

Flavour: sweet, tart

Seeds: yes




Available: Apr-May and Nov-Dec

Colour: golden green

Size/Shape: large, oblong

Texture: firm, juicy

Flavour: sweet

Seeds: yes


A: The French Paradox refers to the inconsistency between the high level of saturated fat in the French diet  and their low rate of heart disease. It is believed that the French penchant for drinking red wine, helps protects them from the dangers of eating saturated fat. 

Studies show that in moderation, red wine reduces blood pressure and other risk factors of heart disease. In particular, the antioxidants contained in grape skin (only used in red wine production) are proven to reduce constriction and blockage of the blood vessels. 


Q: Why do people call figs a ‘false fruit’?

With all this unseasonal rain, top quality strawberries are going to be thin on the ground for Valentine’s Day. So why not replace them with some fresh NSW figs! Local figs are fantastic quality at the moment, and with a long held reputation as both an aphrodisiac and symbol of romance, they will satisfy foodies and romantics alike.

As fresh figs do not ripen after harvest, pick figs that are heavy and plump with no blemishes and good colour for their variety (see below). Avoid any with a sour smell as they will be over ripe.  When they split at the base, they’re ready to serve.


BLACK GENOA: Most common commercial variety in NSW


SHAPE: Med to large , squat and conical

COLOUR: Dark purple skin at maturity, dark red seeds and white flesh

AVAILABILITY : late December to May

PEFORMANCE: Distinctive rich, sweet flavour, stores well. Best for eating fresh or jams




SHAPE:  Med to large, sphere.

COLOUR: The skin is green tinged with amber when ripe. Flesh is a rich , strawberry colour


PEFORMANCE: All purpose fig with excellent flavour. Peels easily when ripe




SHAPE:  Med to large, pear shape with prominent ribs and large eye

COLOUR: Thin, brown skin which is a lighter copper colour near the stem, flesh is pink-brown

AVAILABILITY : February to May

PEFORMANCE: Excellent flavour with few seeds- suited to eating fresh



PRESTON PROLIFIC: Originated in VIC, thought to be a Black Genoa seedling

SHAPE: Med to large, sphere

COLOUR: Skin changes from green to a purple brown when ripe. Pulp is amber with a tint of red and the flesh is very thick, creamy white and juicy

AVAILABILITY : February to May

PEFORMANCE: Distinctively sweet


Still not convinced? Here are some Valentine's Day inspirations with fig at their heart:

Arugula with Brûléed Figs, Ricotta, Prosciutto & Smoked Marzipan – Graham Elliot

Duck Breast with figs, burnt honey and lavender sauce – Gourmet Traveller

Figs for a Thousand and One Nights- Nigella Lawson

Fig leaf ice-cream with crushed berries and meringue- Gourmet Traveller

Baci Di Fichi - delicious magazine


A: Figs are all about hidden treasures. What we often refer to as the fruit is actually a synconium (hollow vessel) which holds the delicate flowers and seeds of the plant.  In ‘persistent’ figs varieties (i.e. the ones we eat fresh) the flowers are all female and the seeds empty. Whereas dried figs are produced from varieties where the seeds are pollinated, which is how they achieve their nutty flavour.