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

Click for Inspiration!




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

Click for Inspiration!




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

Click for Inspiration!


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: How do you prolong the shelf life of potatoes? 

They may be getting a bad rap from peppy, anti-carb personal trainers the world over at the moment, but the humble ‘taiter’ is still one of the most versatile and cost-effective foods on the market. Yet another successful member of the Nightshade family, potatoes are the world’s largest vegetable crop and fourth largest food crop, with over 330 million tonnes produced worldwide in 2009. While consumption varies per region and the latest fad diet, the average global citizen consumes 33kg of the starchy tuber every year.

There are thousands of potato varieties, hundreds of which are edible, with more being developed all the time. Commercial varieties are categorised and bought in a number of ways; whether they are washed or brushed, size, texture and/or specific variety.

Washed potatoes are efficient, no washing on site means  less man hours and a shiny skin on arrival. The washed potatoes sold by Simon George & Sons are mostly Coliban which is a tasty, all rounder which is available in a variety of sizes. Varieties can vary under the ‘washed’ banner and all potatoes can be pre-washed or peeled on request. Meanwhile, the ever faithful Sebago represents for the ‘dirty brushed’ and ‘chipped’ category. Keeping the dirt on the skin helps protect the potato from moisture and light, which prolongs shelf life and balances the effort involved in washing at a later date.

Size matters when it comes to potatoes. Cocktails and Chat potatoes are bought purely on size, not variety. When you buy these sizes, you can expect washed, all-rounders that have white skin and flesh. The main size classifications you will see for spuds include:

  • Large
  • Medium (Table)
  • Small (Chat)- over 70grams but smaller than medium (table)
  • Cocktail Chat - under 70grams, usually 2-3cm in diameter

The texture of the spud is determined by the amount of starch in the potato and therefore directly influences its preparation. Textures range from waxy to floury, with all-rounders falling somewhere in-between:

  • Waxy- less starch (16-18%) and higher moisture, therefore best for salads, stews, soups or anything where you want the potato to hold shape
  • All Rounder: Are neither definitively waxy or floury and therefore tend to be good for most types of cooking.
  • Floury/Starchy:  higher starch (20-22%) and less moisture. Release starch when boiled or fried, therefore best for baking in skins and mashing as they fluff up beautifully. If you want to whip up freedom fries or a salad with floury varieties, they will need to be soaked first.

As there are so many different types of potatoes available, we have broken them down into something more palatable:

Needless to say we haven’t included every potato in the list above. Other spud favourites that deserve a mention are:

  • Waxy:                      Patrone, Bintje, Ruby Lou
  • All Rounder:      Golden Delight, Red Rascal, Spunta, Toolangi Delight
  • Floury:                   Russet Burbank, Kennebec

To discuss these and other tasty potato varieties, contact Simon George & Sons on (02) 9519 1411.

A: Potatoes are a demanding lot when it comes to storage. To maximise shelf life and ensure they don’t darken when cooking, they should be stored in a cool (not cold), dry, dark environment with good airflow and no onions! (When onions and potatoes are stored together, they release gases that can cause rot.) Check stock regularly and remove any that are soft, shrivelled or sprouting, like bad apples they will taint the lot.

Also, watch for ‘greening’. To maximise the tubers chance of producing more potato plants, they contain low levels of toxic chemicals (glycoalkaloids) which deter predators from eating the tuber when unearthed. If a potato is exposed to light or damaged, it triggers this protective measure and the production of glycoalkaloids increases. At their most potent in the sprouts, these chemicals can cause anything from food poisoning to death.  Green spots on the skin (greening) are a good indicator of light exposure and are therefore a warning sign of toxicity. While all green potatoes won’t kill you, it’s best to toss them.



Q: What is the best way to store fresh wasabi?

A popular accompaniment to Japanese cuisine, Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) packs a punch similar to a very hot mustard. While hot enough to separate the boys from the men, wasabi doesn’t coat the tongue, so even after a good dose you won’t lose the more subtle flavours of the dish.

Notoriously difficult to grow, Wasabi hasn’t always been well represented in Australia. So it is no surprise that when Tasmanian producer Shima Wasabi won the ‘From the Earth’ category at the 2011 delicious Produce Awards, iconic chef Cheong Liew was quoted as saying “at last we have the real thing for our sashimi”.

Based in Northern Tasmania, Shima Wasabi uses a hydroponic system that mimics the Japanese water farming process, giving chefs year round access to authentic, top quality wasabi stems, leaves and stalks.

Stephen Welsh from Shima Wasabi says that preparation is key to getting an intense paste from the stems, “when you grate wasabi a complex chemical reaction takes place. If you don’t get the texture right, you don’t get that wonderful wasabi flavour”. His tips:

  •  grate fresh to serve
  •  use a traditional sharkskin or wooden board that allows you to grate very finely
  •  mix the paste on the board as you grate
  •  when you have the desired amount let it sit for 2-3 minutes prior to serving- this is crucial as it allows the full chemical reaction to take place

Not to be left out, the glossy green leaves and leaf stalks of fresh wasabi can be used to bring a milder, crunchy wasabi hit to seafood dishes and salads.

A: While grated wasabi is past its best in less than an hour, unused wasabi stems can be kept for up to three weeks if stored properly. Wrap the stem in paper towel and put in an airtight bag or container. Replace the paper towel every few days. The leaves and leaf stalks can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.