With spring in the air, it’s time to start enjoying lighter eating and adding some extra fresh and crisp salad greens to your meals. The Salad Hut is a one-stop shop for everything salad, and always has a huge array of healthy locally grown greens to choose from including fancy lettuce, baby spinach, tatsoi, rocket, herbs, and watercress (a peppery green that’s highly nutritious and excellent on sandwiches). Also look out for The Salad Hut’s mixed salad bunches – a generous bunch of rocket, coriander, tatsoi, and red beet leaf or red mizuna which creates a fantastic mix of texture, flavours and colour.
ITALIAN PURPLE GARLIC
Locally grown garlic is the best, and Federal farmers Organic Forrest have just harvested the first of the new season Italian Purple variety. Full of flavour, Italian Purple, it’s a little spicy and strong to start off with, and rich and sweet and nutty when roasted. Available from the Organic Forrest stall at the market.
TAKE HOME LASAGNE
A lot of love, time and effort goes into Byron Gourmet Pasta’s new take-home lasagne. First, local Coopers Shoot tomatoes are cooked for at least 24 hours for a rich tomato sauce, then the meat sauce, using local Hayters Hill beef is also slow cooked for 24 hours. A creamy bechamel is made, then it’s all constructed using Byron Gourmet Pasta’s hand made pasta sheets. Available frozen from the Byron Gourmet Pasta stall at Mullumbimby Farmers Market, it’s a delicious and easy take home meal. (It also works as an ice brick to keep your produce cold while you’re out shopping and will be defrosted and ready to cook by the time you’re ready for dinner.)
Growing underground protected from the elements, root vegetables flourish in winter. They’re packed with vitamins, and their earthy, robust flavour is ideal for winter/spring meals – think roast parsnips, or mashed sweet potato. Root vegetables are in season now and available all over the market. Along with potatoes, carrots, and beetroots, you’ll also find these:
Sweet potatoes: You may be familiar with the gold variety, but the purple, white and red are just as good. Roast and use in a salad, mash, or make deep fry for sweet potato chips. Available from Jumping Red Ant, Summit Organics and Morrow Farm.”
Taro: It looks a little like a big hairy potato, but don’t let that put you off. Taro is a tasty root vegetable that can be used in a variety of ways. Taro root chips are a good introduction – peel and slice into thin slices lengthwise then place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive and salt and bake for 20 min at 200C. Available from Jumping Red Ant.”
Turnips: Bake, mash or add to soups. Find them at Glenyce Creighton organics.
Parsnip: Delicious roasted, parsnips can also be pureed into a soup our blended with butter and cream for an alternative to mashed potatoes. Find them at Everest Farm.
Daikon radish: Often used raw in salads and sushi, or pickled, this long white vegetables with a spicy kick can also be roasted or added to stir fries. Find them at the Bangalow Farm stall.
You might have got your first taste of this year’s strawberry crop when the first flush of these sweet little fruits made it to the market a few weeks ago. It’s been a bit quiet since, but the next flush has now started, which means there should be a steady supply of strawberries at the market over the next few months. Alstonville growers Rick and Stan Morrow, say it’s looking like a good season so far and as long as there is not too much rain, the quality will remain high. Blueberries are also still available at Blueberry Fields.
About the size of a grape tomato and with a pretty speckled shell, quail eggs are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Local organic farmer Glenyce Creighton says they can be used in the same way as chicken eggs – for a hard-boiled egg just boil for two minutes and they are done. For soft boiled, reduce to one minute. Use them whole in salads or cut in half and serve on canapes. Available at Glenyce’s stall at the market.
Macadamia nuts make one of the best nut butters because they are so creamy and high in the good fats similar to those you find in avocados and olive oil. Macadamia is a delicious, smooth, dairy free alternative to traditional butter – spread it on toast or even add to baking in place of butter. Local macadamia growers Rainforest Foods, based at Tuckombil, create a range of macadamia butters available as well as their delicious Mac-Cao – macadamia butter blended with cacao (a bit like Nutella but a whole lot better in so many ways). Organic Forrest also make a lovely macadamia butter made using organically grown nuts from their farm at Federal, or try the maca butter by Nudgel Nuts.
The Northern Rivers is a great place to grow coffee. The climate is well-suited and there are none of the pests or diseases that can affect coffee in other parts of the world. Known for its sweet chocolatey taste, local coffee is also naturally low in caffeine (which means you can have that second cup without getting the jitters). There are several local growers at the farmers markets – for bagged beans, try Organic Forrest and for coffee by the cup and take home bags of beans visit Myocum Coffee a or Bangalow Coffee.
MACADAMIA ICE CREAM
Rainforest Foods’ popular macadamia nut milk ice cream is back! Vegan, dairy free, refined sugar free and gluten free, it’s available in small and large take home containers.
J and J Seafood have been catching prawns, bugs and spanner crabs, along with leatherjacket. It’s also the start of the snapper season, so there should be a good supply of this fantastic eating fish available over the next few months. Meanwhile, award-winning smoked fish specialist The Bay Smokehouse currently has smoked locally caught tailor, along with their famous Fish Rillettes spread. Owner Damien Curtis is passionate about sustainability, sourcing fish from local fisherman, with a special focus on species high in Omega 3s, offering a more environmentally friendly and healthier alternative to smoked salmon.
Whether you want to drink it, or just use it the old-fashioned way in your soups and stews. Find fresh organic celery at Summit Organics.
There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh pineapple to take you back to summer, and you’ll find plenty of these fresh fruits now at the Bangalow Farm stall, back at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market. Grown locally at Newrybar, they’re sweet, juicy and delicious.
THAI CURRY PACKS
Georgica farmer Kenrick Riley has made it easy for anyone to create their own Thai curry paste at home with his ingenious DIY curry paste packs. The packs contain fresh ingredients grown on his organic farm, including galangal, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime and coriander, which you simply add to a blender with a little water to create your paste. Add coconut milk, vegies and protein of choice for a beautiful aromatic curry. Available from Wiccawood Organics at Mullumbimby Farmers market.
Heart shaped and lumpy green on the outside, and white and creamy on the inside, custard apples are a deliciously sweet and versatile fruit. The flesh is delicious eaten as is – add it to your morning muesli with a sprinkle of nuts and coconut, or you can remove the seeds, whiz in a food processor with a little coconut milk and freeze for a yummy dessert. Blended custard apple flesh is also delicious in a cheesecake. Custard apples are in season now and available from the Organic Avocado, Rancho and Morrow Farm.
Award winning honey producer Garry Rodgers has a huge range of honeys to swirl over your morning porridge, stir into winter drinks, or in the case of his Jellybush honey, to add to your daily health routine. Jellybush, the equivalent to New Zealand’s Manuka honey, has very high antimicrobial levels, which means it’s considered medicinal. Garry says you can use it orally – a teaspoon a day for gut health, digestion, sore throat or keeping colds away, or topically it can help to heal wounds, cuts and burns.
RHUBARB: The perfect winter comfort food, Rhubarb brings back childhood memories of Grandma’s rhubarb crumble. To stew, cut into chunks, sprinkle with sugar to taste and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until it’s soft. Make a big batch and you can store in the fridge to use on your morning porridge or muesli, to eat with ice cream or custard or yoghurt for dessert or make a rhubarb and apple crumble. Find fresh rhubarb at Summit Organics.
PEAS: Sure, frozen peas are convenient, but nothing compares to the flavour and sweetness of a fresh pea straight from the pod. Eat them raw, lightly steam as a side dish or use in pasta and rice dishes or soups. Find fresh peas at the Everest Farm and Jumping Red Ant.
LEEKS: Just in time for all those warming winter dishes, leeks are now in season locally. Their mild sweet flavour is perfect in soups, casseroles, pies, pasta and risottos, or just saute with some butter and/or olive oil and salt and pepper for a delicious side dish. Leeks available from the Everest Farm stall.
PECANS: Northern NSW may be famous for macadamias, but it’s also one of the country’s biggest pecan-producing regions. The local pecan harvest usually starts around now, and new season nuts are starting to appear at the markets. Like macadamias, pecans are full of healthy fats and a good source of fibre. They’re delicious in cakes and desserts, sprinkled in salads for some extra crunch and nutrition, or on your morning porridge. They’re available shelled or unshelled at the markets. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer to keep them at their best and their nutrients intact. Available from Morrow Farm and The Spice Palace
BEETROOT: Antioxidant-rich fresh beetroot is a winter veggie staples. Eat it raw, grated onto sandwiches or thinly sliced into a salad, roast it in cubes and toss in a vegie salad, slice thinly and roast with olive oil and salt for beetroot chips or make your own fresh beetroot dip. If you’re buying from the farmers market, your beetroot will most likely come with tops attached – don’t throw them away! Beetroot greens are especially nutritious – packed with calcium iron and vitamins A and C. Use them in the same way you would spinach, steamed, sautéed, in soups or stir-fires or in a green smoothie.
CORIANDER: This fragrant herb thrives in our cooler months, and its fresh flavour will take your curries and soups to the next level. The leaves are also delicious sprinkled on Mexican foods like tortillas or nachos or steamed or baked fish. Use the roots and stems for making Thai curry pastes. Look for fresh coriander at the Gourmet Salad Hut, Summit Organics and Glenyce Creighton Organics.
Citrus season is underway – the limes arrived first and now the lemons, mandarins and oranges are in season. Find citrus 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 fruit. 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 .
Also in season: Apples, bananas,broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, citrus, coriander, daikon, garlic, ginger, macadamias, mushroom, pecan, pumpkin, radish, potato, silverbeet, spinach, turmeric