Citrus season is underway – the limes arrived first and now the lemons are coming into season. There are two main varieties available – the Meyer – a rounder, slightly sweeter lemon believed to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or orange, and the Eureka, which is an oval shape and more acidic. Numulgi citrus grower Jane Boniface, or Rancho Limes, says both have plenty of juice, but the Eureka has a thick rind with a strong lemony flavour that makes it is better for zesting. Use lemon juice in dressings, squeezed on fish or avocado, or make a lemon ginger tea. And don’t waste the zest – if you’re juicing a lemon, always zest it first – you can store the zest in the freezer and use it later for making gremolata, adding to deserts, or mixing into your breadcrumbs. Find lemons at Rancho Limes, Neville Singh’s stall, Mt Chowan Organic and Organic Forrest.
Fennel’s mild liquorice-like flavour complements and enhances so many foods. Use slivers of fennel raw and crunchy in coleslaw, with orange segments and salad leaves for a beautiful winter salad or cut bulbs in half and roast with some olive oil until sweet and tender to serve as a side dish with chicken or fish. Look for fresh fennel at Summit Organics and the Everest Farm stall.
The popular Organic Avocado stall is back with new season Fuertes. Avocados also available at Mt Chowan Organics, Jumping Red Ant and Morrow Farm.
Autumn is traditionally harvest time for pumpkin and there is plenty about at the farmers markets now. Great in soups, roasted in salads, curries or vegie lasagne. Don’t throw away the seeds either – they’re highly nutritious and a great snack. To prepare, give them a quick rinse, and rub off as much stringy pumpkin bits as possible. Dry on a tea towel, then toss in a little olive oil and salt and roast at 150 for about 20 minutes. Eat them as a snack, sprinkle on salad or on your pumpkin soup
It’s a great time to get out into the vegie garden and plant some winter crops. Vegies like snow peas, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and carrots can all be planted now, and the cooler weather means there are lest pests about to nibble on your plants. Once you’ve prepared your soil, pick up some organically raised seedlings from local growers One Organic or Pam Morrow, where you can also get plenty of helpful advice on caring for your plants.
This highly-nutritious leafy green is at its best during the cooler months and there should be a good supply from now on. There are three main varieties to look out for – each with a slightly different taste and texture, so it’s worth trying them all to find out what you prefer. Cavolo Nero is the dark green type with slender rumpled leaves and is good in soups and stews, Curly Kale is the one with frilly edges that’s best for kale chips or in salad and Red Russian is a sweeter, more tender variety, good in salads or pasta. Find kale at Summit Organics, Organic Forrest , The Salad Hut and Everest Farms .
The first of the citrus has arrived, with plenty of local limes being picked for the markets. Their fresh zing can make all the difference to a meal and they’re great with seafood, desserts and drinks. Fresh limes now available from Jumping Red Ant, The Salad Hut and Rancho Limes.
The apple season has begun, with a great pick of new season Fujis (grown at Stanthorpe – the closest place to the Northern Rivers with a climate suited to apple growing), now available at the markets. Find them at McMahons Organic Apple stall, now back at the market, and the Costanzo Apples stall.
This leafy green is high in Vitamin A, C and iron, and high in protein, making it a good addition to vegetarian and vegan diets. It can be eaten raw, steamed or stewed – use it basically the same way you would spinach. Good on sandwiches, quiches, salads, coleslaw, casseroles, soups, in stir fries, or in green smoothies. Georgica grower, Kenrick Riley, of Mullumbimby Farmers Market Wiccawood Organics recommends eating it in a coconut cream dish – pour one can of coconut cream into a heavy saucepan, add some grated ginger, garlic and finely chopped chilli and bring to a simmer. Cut aibika into strips and cook gently till wilted. Serve with fish or stir through udon noodles.
All the brassicas are returning to the market as the weather cools down. Broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower will be available now right through winter. Cauliflower has become especially popular in recent years for creating cauliflower rice – a lighter alternative to steamed rice, (which also enables you to sneak more vegetables on to your plate). You can also use cauliflower soups and stews, baked with garlic and olive oil or mashed with garlic and butter and a sprinkle of parmesan. Find cauliflower at the Everest Farm stall, Jumping Red Ant or Summit Organic stalls.
The earthy flavour of mushrooms is perfect for these cooler Autumn nights. Try a mushroom soup, chicken and mushroom pie or pasta. For delicious locally grown mushrooms, visit the Shroom Brothers stall at Mullumbimby Farmers Market, where you’ll find a beautiful selection of the rich, buttery Shiitake, and the more delicately flavoured oyster and king oyster.
These pretty little ‘fruits’ are actually a type of hibiscus. The part that is used for eating is called a calyx, which is the outside petal like part of the fruit. They’re commonly used to make cordials, jams, syrups or sauces , and a have a lovely plum/raspberry like flavour that goes well with sweet desserts or savoury dishes like roast lamb or pork. For Rosella tea, use 3-4 calyx per cup and pour over boiling water. Look for them at Glenyce Creighton’s organic produce stall or the Playing With Fire native food stall.
Also known as the horned melon, these funky fruit look like little spiky cucumbers. You can eat them green, as you would a cucumber, or wait until they turn yellow, when they sweeten up and tastes more like a kiwi fruit. Just cut in half and scoop out the edible seeds and flesh. Available from Glenyce Creighton’s organic produce stall.
The North Coast produces some of the country’s sweetest and best tasting bananas but it’s unlikely you’ll find one in the big supermarkets as they favour the bigger, ‘better looking’ fruit from North Queensland. Your best bet for a local banana is the farmers markets – Neville Singh is one of the region’s best-known growers, and always has a great selection of Cavendish and Lady Fingers at his stall at Mullumbimby Farmers Markets. He also grows more unusual varieties, like the creamy Blue Java, aka the Ice Cream banana, the red skinned Dacca banana and the Plantain. Other local banana growers include Lance and Georgia Powell of Mt Chowan Organics who sell at Mullumbimby Farmers Market.
Likened by some to a magical dragon egg because of its unusual shape and colour, the dragonfruit is actually the fruit of a cactus plant. It comes in several varieties – the most common is the red skin, red flesh, but they also come with red skin/white flesh, pink skin and white flesh or even yellow skin and white flesh. They have a mild taste and are best eaten chilled with a squeeze of lime. They’re also good in fruit salads or smoothies. The season is coming to an end, but you might still find a few at the Rainbow Fruit Flats stall.
Sprouts and microgreens are full of nutrition and can add extra crunch and flavour to almost any meal. The Energetic Greens stall at Mullumbimby Farmers market has a big range, including broccoli, buckwheat, radish, sunflower sprouts. Wheatgrass and barley grass are also available in shots or in take home trays for those who like to juice at home. For legume-based sprouts, Sproutlovers has lentil, chickpea and blue pea sprouts.
One of our best known native fruits, zingy finger limes are in season and available now from local farmers. Often called citrus caviar, they’re filled with tiny beads that pop in your mouth, releasing their fresh citrus flavour. They’re fantastic squeezed onto seafood, chicken, melons, dragonfruit, avocado, or added to your cocktails. Find them at Mullumbimby Farmers Market’s native food stall, Playing with Fire. If you fancy growing your own finger lime tree (as a native they’re very hardy and well suited to our local conditions), you’ll also find grafted finger lime trees for sale at the stall.
One of the most versatile vegies, zucchini is good in almost anything – from Thai curries to zucchini slice. Turn them into zoodles – a gluten free alternative to pasta noodles, or try zucchini lasagna using slices of zucchini instead of pasta sheets. Available from Jumping Red Ant and Everest Farm.
If you haven’t discovered eggplant, now’s the season. This super versatile vegetable is at its best in late summer/autumn and is a great foundation for a vegetarian or vegan meal. Combine with zucchini, capsicum, tomatoes, onion and garlic for a healthy pasta sauce or use slices as an alternative to pasta sheets in lasagne. Roast and use as a pizza topping, add to curries or stir fries, or grill with a miso glaze for a tasty Japanese-style side dish. And if you need an example of just how good eggplant can be, try the marinated and fermented eggplant from fermented food stall Suria Foods.
Garlic is one of those staples you should always try and buy locally – imported garlic is cheap, but often bleached and sprayed with chemicals and will not have the same flavour. For some excellent locally grown garlic, try Organic Forrest and Summit Organics. Also look out for Picone Exotics’ exquisite fermented black garlic..
Brunswick River oyster farmer Noel Baggaley, of Brunswick Seed Oysters, says it’s a great season for his sweet tasting Sydney Rock Oysters. Also try his oyster shots. His legendary seafood chowder will be back soon (when the weather cools down).
Summer and Autumn means salads brimming with lots of fresh leafy greens. The Gourmet Salad Hut have a huge range of greens available from their Burringbar farm, including cos, oak and mignonette lettuce, rocket, Pak choy, and watercress, as well as fresh leafy herbs like basil. Teven grower Denise Latham also has an excellent variety of lettuce and salad mixes available. To keep your leafy greens fresher longer, chop off any roots and store in an airtight bag or container in the fridge.
Crisp, cool and refreshing, slice cucumber thinly into salads, cut into sticks and serve with dip, make a summer cucumber soup, create home made pickles or add a few strips to your gin and tonic. Find fresh local cucumbers at Coopers Shoot Tomatoes Morrow Farm, Jumping Red Ant, Everest Farm and Summit Organics.
Mt Chowan Organics and Everest Farm have been picking yellow and red paw paw that are sweet and ripe. Best cut in half and eaten with a squeeze of lemon or lime, or try a pawpaw breakfast bowl. Chill a pawpaw, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and fill with yoghurt muesli, and fresh fruit like blueberries, bananas and strawberries.