The local mango season is always worth waiting for. It comes a little later than the NT or QLD, but because our local fruit ripen slower, they often have a more intense flavour. You’ll find several varieties at the market now and in the coming weeks include the ever-popular Kensington Pride or Bowen, Nam Doc Mai (eat green or ripe), Valencia Pride, R2E2 and the Keitt. The skin of local fruit varieties will often look a little different to those you see in the supermarket that are grown elsewhere, but don’t let that put you off. Mangos come in a myriad of shapes, sizes and colours, and skin colour is not always an indicator of flavour – or ripeness. The best way to test if a fruit is ripe is by smell, and/or giving it a gentle squeeze. If it gives a little, it’s ready. Mangos also ripen up if left for a few days in the fruit bowl, or alternatively, they can be put in the fridge to slow their ripening, If in doubt, ask your farmer the best way to eat their particular variety. Pick up your local mangos from Rainbow Fruit Flats, Glenyce Creighton, Jungle Juice, Mt Chowan Organics, or Matt Everest.
The zesty flavour of these refreshing little fruit is just right for hot summer days. Make yourself a limeade, squeeze into your sparkling water, add a dash of lime juice to cocktails, or blend with pineapple and mint and freeze to create the perfect summer ice-block. A squeeze of lime will bring out the flavour of almost any fruit, but particularly fruits like mangos, paw paw, watermelon, pineapple and dragonfruit. Limes are also an essential ingredient in many Asian dishes, marinades and salad dressings, and add an amazing flavour to desserts, pies and tarts. Fresh new season limes available now from Neville Singh , The Salad Hut and Church Farm.
There are some lovely local lychees available at the moment. Try the Jumping Red Ant stall.
Ever experienced a ‘chilli high’ after eating a hot curry or stir-fry? There’s a chemical in chillies that stimulates the release of endorphins into your body, which is why some people get addicted to their fiery flavour. There’s an excellent selection of chills at the markets now, ranging in heat from just a little bit spicy to super-hot. Try Jumping Red Ant for the popular Jalapeño, Long Red variety and hot Habanero; or Pam Morrow at Iona Herbs who has the Bell Lantern, Long Thin, and Chocolate Habanero – one of the hottest chills on the planet – as well as dried chilli. Neville Singh also has chocolate habaneros.
Finger Limes are actually native to the Northern Rivers area, where they once grew in the Big Scrub rainforest. Known as the caviar of the citrus world, the cigar-shaped fruit is filled with tiny beads that create a fresh lime explosion in your mouth. Perfect with prawns and other seafood or in a cool drink on a hot summers day. Rebecca Barnes of native food stall, Playing With Fire has new season fruit now.
This versatile vegetable is in abundance during late summer. Char-grill to bring out the flavour and add it to salads, curries or use as a pizza topping. Fresh eggplant is available from Everest Farm, Summit Organics, Jumping Red Ant and Glenyce Creighton.
Picone Exotics are renowned for many things. their fresh figs being one. They are pure sweet honeyed deliciousness. Eat them as they are, top with marscapone for an easy dessert or add to a cheese platter. Available for only a short time.
Easy summer salads call for fresh leafy greens, and the farmers markets have some great choices to fill your salad bowl. The Gourmet Salad Hut is a salad lovers heaven – an entire stall dedicated to salad greens. Along with their big selection of fancy lettuce that includes cos, coral, green oak, red oak and mignonette, you’ll also find some more unusual choices like wild rocket, pak choy, tatsoi, beetroot leaf and watercress, that will add some beautiful colours flavours and textures to your salads. Denise Latham and Church Farm also have a variety of fresh lettuce and salad mixes available. To keep your greens fresher longer, chop off the roots and store in the fridge in an airtight bag or container.
The Northern Rivers can lay claim to quite a few Australian ’bests’ – the best beaches, best macadamias, best coffee, and undoubtedly, the best bananas. Local bananas are a little smaller than the North Queensland version (the huge ones you find in the supermarket), but they just taste so much better. It’s our cool winters and longer ripening time that allows the sugars to fully develop and makes them taste so sweet. Local growers Neville Singh Everest Farm and Mt Chowan Organics have plenty of delicious bananas available at the moment – lovely just as they are, in a smoothie or in cakes and muffins. In the hot weather they ripen very quickly, so go for the ones that are still a little green if you want them to last. Of course, you can always freeze bananas – peel and place in a ziplock bag and use as you need. Frozen bananas whipped in the food processor to a smooth consistency are a yummy and healthy ice cream alternative- add some coconut milk for an even creamier texture, then enjoy as is or top with nuts, fresh fruit or honey.
Crunchy summer beans are in abundance at the farmers markets now in a glorious variety of colours. Combine raw green, purple and yellow butter beans in a rainbow bean salad, try them roasted with diced bacon or pancetta, olive oil, salt and pepper for a delicious side, or grab some spices and vinegar and make your own preserved ‘dilly beans’ – a tasty way to make use of extra beans.
The first of the summer melons have arrived at the market. Matt Everest is picking new season rockmelon and watermelon, with fruit available from now through summer.
If you’ve been thinking about making a batch of home-made tomato sauce that you tuck away in the freezer for an easy dinner, now is the perfect time. The tomato season is at its peak, and the juicy red fruit are in abundance. At Coopers Shoot Tomatoes, they are picking more tomatoes than they know what to do with, and offering some great bargains on bulk buys of slightly imperfect fruit. Tomatoes also available at Jumping Red Ant, Everest Farm, Summit Organics, and Morrow Farm.
For pure sweet corn deliciousness, wrap your cobs in foil with some butter, garlic and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and salt, and cook on the barbecue. Hint: Cook and eat your sweet corn as soon as possible after buying it. Over time, the sugars in sweet corn start converting to starch, so the longer you leave it, the less sweet it will be (this is why fresh corn tastes so much better than corn that’s been sitting on a supermarket shelf for a week). Try Matt Everest’s stall and Morrow Farm for sweet and fresh locally grown corn.
Another summer favourite, sweet and fragrant basil is at its best over the coming months. Blend with local macadamias garlic, olive oil, lemon juice plus parmesan and salt for a delicious pesto, add it to pasta dishes, or sprinkle on pizza just before serving for some fresh flavour. Basil is notoriously tricky to keep fresh, so if you’re not going to use your basil straight away, you will need to store it properly. The Salad Hut recommends the following for all fresh herbs: chop off the roots, wrap in paper towel and put in a sealed container or clip lock bag in the fridge. Look for fresh basil at The Salad Hut, Summit Organics , Organic Forrest, Iona Herbs and from Glenyce Creighton’s stall.
Most of the pepper we eat is the dried, black version. Before it becomes dried pepper, however, it’s a fresh peppercorn, which looks like a small green berry. Fresh peppercorns are milder (but still have a hot kick), and have a complex and fresh, fruity flavour. They make an incredible pepper sauce, and also pair well with goats cheese, seafood and the flavours of Thai and Indian cooking. Fresh peppercorns available from rare and exotic fruit and spice grower, John Picone at Picone Exotics.
New season garlic