In Season is a new monthly feature, bringing you up to date with the best of local and imported seasonal produce available in the coming month. In Season will be an evolving feature, so we invite your feedback and suggestions.
In agricultural circles, November is known as one of the hungry months, meaning it falls between the end of the winter produce season and the commencement of the various summer gluts. But what November lacks in variety it certainly makes up for in sheer quality.
Asparagus is currently nearing peak production for the year, and prices are now very reasonable. Look for tight bunches of crisp, skinny spears, and avoid anything limp, wizened or excessively thick. Asparagus is one of the finest green crops of the whole year, and should be enjoyed en masse when it’s cheap and goodly. Eat it raw, steamed, in soups, risotto or even on pizza. For more on Asparagus click here.
Due to several warm, sunny weeks in row, November has seen an abundance of exceptionally sweet and quite affordable strawberries come onto the market. Due to the vagaries of late spring weather, and the ominous approach of Christmas, they won’t stay that way long. Buy now and devour with gluttonous gusto. For more on strawberries click here
Perla New Potatoes
Grown by A S Wilcox & Sons Limited, and one of the newest kids on the root-crop block, Perla new potatoes truly are one of the high points of the local produce calendar. With their slightly elongated form, fudgey texture and full-bodied potato flavour, Perlas lend themselves nicely to boiling, sautéing (sliced) in butter and sage, or even oven roasting with plenty of rock salt and rosemary. Almost uniquely, Perlas lack the bitter skin typical of new potatoes. The Perla season is all to brief, so waste no time. Available in 1 kilo boxes from fruiters and supermarkets nationwide.
Also known (erroneously) as custard apples, cherimoya are large heart-shaped fruit with an intensely sweet, creamy flesh, and a flavour reminiscent of pineapple, mango and bubble gum. The fruit are grown in warmer parts of the upper North Island, and are mostly sold through farmers markets and Asian supermarkets. This luscious, unusual fruit, can be eaten fresh (best with a little lime juice), in fruit salads or puréed into smoothies. Cherimoya ripen best off the tree, so can be purchased green and unripe. Ripe fruit have a slightly blackened, bruised appearance belying their creamy-white and buttery soft interior.
November is peak season for New Zealand avocadoes, meaning good prices and great fruit. Choosing a perfect avocado is something of an art form, but the old-fashioned ‘stem press test’ is pretty reliable. Gently push down on the base of the stem. If the fruit doesn’t yield, then it’s unripe; if the stem pops in like a hot knife into butter, then it’s over-ripe and should be shunned like a biblical leper. Somewhere in-between these extremes lies buttery, green perfection. Use fresh avocado in salads, spread thickly on toast or best of all in homemade guacamole, with loads of lime juice and chilli. Avoid cooked avocado. Nasty.
The 2010 white bait season closes on November 30th, so you only have a few weeks to get your hands on a scoop or two of these svelte little sweethearts. Accept only iodine-scented, slippery whitebait with sliver flecked bodies and clear, accusing eyes. As with all seafood, freshness is absolutely crucial. When it comes to eating whitebait, there is really only one way: fritters made using your old family recipe, fried in butter and served with a with a wedge of ruddy meyer lemon. Simple , iconic bliss.
Also on the shelves in November:
Seasonal lettuce, carrots, silverbeet, Florence fennel ,hothouse aubergine, broad beans, kale (Cavalo nero), beetroot, globe artichokes, early raspberries, rhubarb, blueberries, baby vegetables (carrots, leeks, beetroot etc), kiwifruit, watercress, late mandarins.
Imported Produce, November:
Although at Foodlovers we don’t strongly advocate the use of imported produce, sometimes needs (or desires) must.
Californian stone fruit, grapes, pomegranates, pears, tangelos, limes, Chinese pears, Thai young coconuts, lychee, longan, durian, Thai (Nam do mai) mangoes, Mexican mangoes, Australian mangoes (irradiated). Indian pomegranate pulp, Red bananas.
Have we missed anything?