Who doesn’t love a mandarin? These little fruit have to be one of the most convenient snack foods around. Just grab and go for your handbag or the kids lunchboxes – easy to peel and there’s no mess because the fruit is already broken into those easy-to-eat segments. Better still, they’re in season during winter and give you a Vitamin C hit just when you need it most. Mooball fruit growers Peter and Nora Brils are currently picking this year’s crop of mandarins; find them at their Mullum Farmers Market stall, Jungle Juice. Mandarins also available from The Organic Avocado.
The bright lemony flavour of a handful of fresh coriander leaves is the secret ingredient in so many dishes – think fragrant Thai soups and curries, Vietnamese chicken salad, bahn mi, Indian curries and even guacamole. Add it just before serving for the best flavour and don’t forget to save the roots as they can be used for home made curry pastes. Winter is the best season for fresh local coriander – find it at The Salad Hut and Summit Organics or grab some seedlings from the market and grow your own.
Macas are the ultimate local food. They’ve grown in this region for thousands of years and are now one of our most important crops. Freshness matters when it comes to nuts – the fresher they are the more nutrients they contain and the better they taste – and some of the freshest nuts available locally are Nudgel Nuts, which come from Ian McRae’s property at The Pocket. Ian handles every step of the processing on farm, and his macadamias are roasted fresh each week for the market. You’ll also find super-fresh macadamias at Rainforest Foods, which come direct from the Hotson farm at Tuckombil.
The local pecan harvest is has begun and you will find lots at the markets from now, in their shells or pre-cracked. The shelled variety are great for convenience, but don’t be afraid of buying the nuts in shell – they are much easier to crack than a macadamia! Like all nuts, pecans are a super healthy snack. They’re high in protein, unsaturated fats, Omega 3’s and fibre, and are an excellent addition to vegetarian and vegan meals. They’re also perfect in sweet treats like pecan pie, brownies, biscuits and ice cream. To store, put in an airtight container in a cool place or freeze. Shelled and unshelled local pecans available from Glenyce Creighton Organics, Morrow Farm and The Spice Palace.
Add to soups and pies, saute as a side dish or add to scrambled eggs. Locally grown leeks are in season now and available from Everest Farm.
Nothing compares to the taste of a sweet, plump juicy pea straight from its pod. Use fresh peas in pasta and rice dishes, soups, or steam lightly and serve with butter and salt and pepper – much better than the frozen ones! If you can’t be bothered with shelling, try snow peas, which are also in season – delicious as a side, in stir fries, or raw in salads. They’re also great for kids’ lunchboxes. The sweetest of all the peas – the sugar snap – will also be available at the markets in coming weeks. Look for fresh peas at Everest Farm, Jumping Red Ant, Organic Forrest and Morrow Farm
Fans of Coopers Shoot Tomatoes will be aware that they have been in limited supply for a while, due to a couple of crop failures at the start of the year. The good news is, tomato production is up again and in recent weeks the stall has been piled high with beautiful tomatoes in a variety of colours, shapes and flavours, including red and yellow cherries, Black Russian and the gourmet truss, which all taste as good as they look. They will be coming in flushes, according to stallholder Heather Armstrong, so grab a bagful while you can.
Winter is all about slow cooks, hearty soups and casseroles. Hayters Hill Farm, known for their ethically and sustainably produced meat, now have a range of winter cuts including beef cheeks, ham hocks, beef roast, pork roast, pork ribs, diced chuck and osso bucco that are perfect for those warming winter meals. Available from Mullumbimby Farmers Market every Friday.
Why pay $16 for smashed avo on toast when you can make it for less than half the price at home? Local avos are in season now – there are plenty at the farmers markets, and you’ll only pay about $2-$3 for one. Alstonville farmers Stan and Rick Morrow have home grown avos at their stall at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market, as does Burringbar organic farmer Georgia Powell of Mt Chowan Organics Locally grown avocados also available at Jumping Red Ant. Serve with a slice of crusty local sourdough from Heart Bread or Crabbes Creek Woodfired.
Red and green varieties are just coming into season now. Rich in Vitamin C, and the core ingredient in that gut-healthy condiment sauerkraut, cabbage has come a long way since the days it was boiled and served floppy and lifeless. The crunch of cabbage makes it ideal for salads – one of the simplest is to combine shredded red cabbage with julienned carrot and a handful of mint or other chopped fresh herb, or try it with shredded apple, local pecans and a creamy dressing. Cabbage is also excellent in stir-fries and fried rice and can be cut into wedges, drizzled with olive oil and roasted (with or without bacon).
Have you tried cauliflower rice yet? It’s become so popular as a low carb alternative to rice that one of the big supermarkets now sells it in a plastic microwaveable tray. Save money and the environment, buy a cauliflower and just do it yourself. To create your own cauliflower rice, cut into chunks and blitz in the food processor or use a grater. You can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days until your ready to use it or put it in the freezer. To cook, drizzle with olive oil, spread on at tray and roast for 10-15 minutes. Local cauliflower available now from Everest Farm.
The Northern Rivers may be one of the biggest custard apple producing regions in Australia, but many locals are still a bit unsure about these weird looking fruit when they see them at the markets. Those who are familiar with them, however, will tell you how addictive they are. The soft, sweet and creamy texture of the fruit is delicious eaten as is, and even better in desserts. Chef Adam Liaw says he freezes his custard apples with some natural yoghurt and honey and then blends it in a food processor until smooth. You can also use the fruit as a topping for pancakes, add to smoothies or use it in a cheesecake. Custard apples are ripe and ready to eat when they start to soften – a ripe custard apple will have a similar amount of give as a ripe avocado when it’s ready. Find custard apples at Picone Exotics, Jumping Red Ant, Rancho Limes and Glenyce Creighton’s stall .
Most of us are familiar with the golden/orange-fleshed sweet potato, but there are actually many varieties in an array of skin and flesh colours. White skin and purple flesh purple skin and white skin with white flesh. All make a great alternative to potatoes and are super healthy – packed with fibre, Vitamin A and C. Use them in essentially the same way as potatoes– as chips, mashed or baked. Sweet potato has also become a fashionable low carb alternative to toast – try cutting sweet potato length ways into 5mm slices, bake for10-15minutes and then top with chicken avocado, spinach and mayo. Sweet potatoes available from Jumping Red Ant and Morrow Farm.
Lemons, oranges and limes are all available now. Try Jungle Juice, Organic Forrest and Mt Chowan Organics.