The humble cauliflower is having its moment, with foodies, chefs and those on low carb, gluten free, raw, paleo and other special diets discovering new ways to use this brilliantly versatile winter vegetable. Mashed cauliflower is probably the best introduction to the ‘new’ cauliflower, and makes a great low carb alternative to mashed potatoes. Just boil the cauliflower until soft, drain and allow all the steam to escape (the less moisture the better) then simply add a little butter and or garlic and blend/puree with a stick mixer until it has the consistency of mashed potatoes. For extra flavour, add cheese and season with salt and pepper. Once you’ve mastered cauliflower mash, there’s a whole world of cauliflower recipes to explore, like cauliflower rice, cauliflower falafel, even cauliflower pizza base! Roasted cauliflower is also delicious – just season florets with olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs, sprinkle with parmesan and roast in the oven till the edges are crispy. Cauliflower available from Everest Farm and Summit Organics .
Baby carrots, or Dutch carrots, are a popular choice at the markets now. Matt Everest, of Everest Farm says Dutch carrots are delicious with a roast – just remove the greens from the top and throw them in whole and unpeeled with a little oil and salt and pepper with the rest of your vegies. Honeyed Dutch carrots are another classic way to enjoy them – simply steam or boil whole in salted water, then pour over a little honey and butter melted together. Dutch carrots and the larger carrot varieties are also available at Bangalow Farm ), Morrow Farm and Summit Organics.
There are plenty of local spuds being harvested at the moment, including some fantastic varieties you’re unlikely to find in the supermarket or green grocer, like the hard-to-find old English heirloom variety, the King Edward at farmer Mike Burless’ stall, Bangalow Farm, at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market. The King Edward is a round to oval shaped potato with smooth pale skin and pink markings, which has a unique floury texture that is perfect for fluffy roast potatoes. More common potato varieties such as the Sebago, Kipfler, Nicola and the ever-popular Dutch Cream are also in season at the moment – try Jumping Red Ant and Morrow Farm, for some top quality local potatoes.
There’s an excellent variety of locally grown citrus available at the moment, bursting with immune system boosting Vitamin C and other goodies that will help stave off those winter sniffles. For oranges, try Organic Forrest who are harvesting the juicy seedless Navelina variety; or for something a little different, try the crimson-fleshed blood oranges grown by Rancho Limes and Church Farm . At Church Farm you’ll also find the juiciest of all citrus, the Tangelo (a cross between a tangerine and grapefruit) and the Lemonade fruit, a sweet cross between a mandarin and a lemon that looks like a lemon but has no bitterness. The Organic Avocado also has a good variety of citrus including mandarins, and the golf ball sized West Indian or Key Lime – hard-to-find, but probably the best tasting of all limes.
The sweet flavour of a crisp pea, snow pea or sugar snap pea straight from the vine can’t be beaten. Soon after it’s picked, however, the sugars that make them taste so good start to convert to starch, which is why peas in the supermarket that have travelled long distances or sat in a coolroom for days just don’t taste that great. If you want to enjoy peas as they should taste, try those picked fresh from Everest Farm or Jumping Red Ant , who both pick the day before market. No need to cook, just eat as is, add to a salad or use in kids lunchboxes.
Fresh celery is perfect for winter soups and stocks, stir fries, spaghetti bolognaise or slow cooks. It’s also delicious in salads, as a scooper for peanut butter or dips or added to juices or green smoothies. There is some good organically grown celery at the markets at the moment- try Summit Organics and Denise Latham’s lettuce stall.
We Aussies often call it spinach, but the vegetable with the thick white stalks and crinkled green leaves is actually silverbeet. It’s just as good for you, and can be used in pretty much the same way as spinach – add to salads or green smoothies, in soups like minestrone, pasta dishes and lasagne, saute with butter, onion and garlic for a side, combine with feta and ricotta and roll in puff pastry for cheese and spinach rolls or use in a classic spanakopita. Look for silverbeet at Jumping Red Ant, Summit Organics, and Everest Farm.
If there’s one thing that always fills our hearts with gladness at this time of year, it’s avocados. Winter is prime avocado time and there will plenty of these creamy delicious and super healthy fruits at the market for the next few months. See Burringbar grower, Tony Hinds, at Avocado Valley, Alstonville organic grower, Kate Thompson, of the Organic Avocado, Jumping Red Ant and Morrow Farm for your avo fix.
Kale has earned a cult following among the health conscious in recent years for its impressive nutritional credentials. It packs in more nutrition than almost any other whole food, with high levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamin K, as wells as Omega 3 fatty acids and calcium. According to the experts, you will absorb more of kale’s goodness if you eat it with a fat, so if you’re having it in a salad add some oily dressing, or make kale chips by coating the leaves in olive or coconut oil, adding some salt and baking in a very low oven (About 100 degrees). You can also add kale to soups like minestrone, pasta, stir fries and pizza, saute it with garlic and onion as a breakfast side with eggs, or add it to your green smoothie. You’ll find a few different varieties at the markets, the most common being the dark green Cavalo Nero and the lighter coloured curly kale (best for kale chips). Look for fresh kale at Summit Organics, Everest Farms , Organic Forrest and the Salad Hut.
This lovely anise-flavoured vegetable is equally delicious raw or cooked. The white bulb of the fennel is the bit that is most commonly eaten – it can be grated or sliced thinly into salads, or roasted for a more a more mellow flavour and silken texture. Fennel is a great great partner for pork, sausages, fish, pasta dishes and pizza or try it raw in salads with orange, pear or apple, and some leafy greens. The delicate fronds can be used as a garnish or added to salads and the stalks can be used in stocks. Available from Summit Organics and Everest Farm,
Plenty of these sweet little golden-orange fruits at the market at the moment. Most growers are harvesting the early season Imperial variety, which has a great flavour, is easy to peel and has few seeds. Perfect for kid’s lunchboxes or a snack in your handbag. Try the Organic Avocado and Burringbar growers, Jungle Juice.
You may have heard of the wonders of Manuka Honey, but what about active Jellybush? Active Jellybush is Australia’s equivalent to New Zealand’s Manuka. Like Manuka, it is the honey produced from bees feeding on the Leptospermum bush, and has the same medicinal qualities that make Manuka so prized. Local beekeeper, Garry Rodgers, of The Honey Wagon has just finished harvesting a new season batch of Jellybush from his hives near Tyagarah, which independent testing has shown to have extremely high levels of antibacterial activity. Garry says a teaspoon of Jellybush a day will help boost your immune system and fight infection and it can also be used externally as a natural wound healer.
Jiggi olive and olive oil producers Alan and Denyse Hodgson, of Grumpy Grandma Olives, are renowned for their olives and olive oil. After harvesting a few months back, they now have this year’s press of olive oil available, as well as the 2016 pick of their award winning olives. Cured with just salt, water and fermentation (none of the nasty chemicals that go into mass-produced olives), their olives have a legion of fans, including many of the region’s best chefs. Look out for their delicious award-winning wood smoked olives: simply delicious.
Sauce and soaps
Home-made sauce and soaps are the newest addition to the Mullumbimby Farmers Market, produced by Billinudgel farmers Andrew Morris and Amanda Callan of Church Farm. The couple’s popular Billinudgel Smoked Hot Sauce contains their own home grown tomatoes onions, turmeric, chillies, ginger garlic and herbs and is great with eggs, meat or anything that needs a spicy kick. Amanda’s soaps are infused with herbs like peppermint and lavender sourced from their garden, as well as local macadamia, olive and hemp seed oils. The Church Farm stall also has a selection of fresh herbs and vegetables.
New season sweet potatoes are at their peak and there are plenty of these delicious and nutritious (lots of Vitamin A, C and fibre) root vegetables available at the markets. The orange-fleshed sweet potato is the one most of us are familiar with as it is so readily available, but sweet potatoes actually come in a huge variety of colours and flavours. White skin with white flesh; white skin with purple flesh (the anti-oxidant rich Hawaiian); purple skin with purple flesh and purple/red skin with white flesh (Japanese sweet potato) are just some of the colourful varieties you’ll find at the Morrow Farm stall, from Glenyce Creighton, Jumping Red Ant and Summit Organics. Use them in the same way you would regular potatoes – boil, steam, mash or bake; add them to soups, stews or salads, or slice thinly for a crunchy tempura.
Peppery and crisp, with a beautiful deep red skin and white flesh, radish are just what you need to add a bit of zing to your salad. Their flavour and texture is particularly good in creamy, mayo dressed salads. They’re delicious paired with creamy cheeses, or do as the French do – slice thinly and eat with cultured butter (see Deb Allard at Cheeses Loves You) and fresh crusty bread. Available from Summit Organics, Bangalow Farm and Everest Farm.
For those of us who were brought up on tinned beetroot, the fresh version can seem a little intimidating at first, but once you go fresh, you won’t go back. Beetroot can be eaten raw – just peel and then grate onto salads, sandwiches or your hamburger. It’s also popular for juicing – blend it with other fruits and vegetables like carrot, celery and apple and ginger for a tasty and healthy drink (you can add the beetroot leaves and stems for extra nutrition.) Beetroot can also be baked (good with a roast) or boiled (if you prefer a softer beetroot). Look out for Spice Palace’s delicious fresh Beetroot, Mint and and Almond dip and Alive Food’s best-selling, beautifully coloured French Beetroot sauerkraut- a great accompaniment to roast lamb, haloumi cheese, or a simple salad.
Apples and Pears
Freshly picked, crisp and juicy: Apples and pears are at their peak in Autumn and winter. Available from Costanzo Apples or organic growers McMahons.
The local pumpkin harvest continues. Church Farm, Summit Organics, Morrow Farm and Everest Farm, will all have fresh pumpkin during the next few weeks. Keep your eye out for unusual varieties, such as the gramma, which sometimes pop up at Morrow Farm or Glenyce Creighton’s organic stall. Spice Palace make a delicious pumpkin and macadamia dip- local organic pumpkin sprinkled with chermoula and olive oil and blended with local macadamia nuts.
Also known by the exotic tag of ‘Peruvian Ground Apple’, or the slightly less glamorous ‘Water Root’ the Yacon looks a lot like a sweet potato, but that’s where the similarity ends. Once peeled, the yacon can be eaten raw, and has a sweet taste described as something like apple, pear and watermelon. Organic farmer Glenyce Creighton, who grows yacon at Myocum says it is has plenty of health benefits, including feeding the bacteria in the intestinal tract that boost the immune system and aid digestion.