Have you ever bought one of those perfect looking oranges at the supermarket, only to find it disappointedly dry and lacking sweetness?
The likely explanation is that it has been picked too early.
To be able to stand up to the modern supply chain, fruit has to be tough. It has to be able to handle being picked, scrubbed, being put in cold storage, travelling long distances (in the case of oranges, often from the USA), and then sitting on the supermarket shelf looking perfect for the longest time possible.
To achieve this, oranges – like other fruits – are picked before they are fully ripe, and then artificially ripened later with ethylene, says local organic farmer and Mullumbimby Farmer Market stallholder, Dave Forrest.
Picking early gives the fruit a longer shelf life, but it’s at the expense of flavour. The natural sugars haven’t had a chance to develop and it won’t be as juicy as a tree-ripened orange.
Oranges heading to the big supermarkets will also often be dipped in fungicide to prevent mould, and sometimes sprayed with wax – especially concerning if you want to use the zest of the orange in your cooking.
Locally grown oranges may not look always look as perfect, but they will always taste better, and if you buy organic, you know they are chemical free. They are just beginning to come into season, and will be at their sweetest and juiciest over the next few months, so now is the time to pick some up at the farmers markets and enjoy them.
Organic orange growers at the markets include Organic Forrest at Mullumbimby Farmers Market, Mt Chowan Organics and Jungle Juice.
• Flourless Orange and Almond Cake
2 large Navel oranges (skin on)
1 1/4 cups soft brown organic sugar or caster sugar
2 1/2 cups ground almonds (almond meal)
2 tsp baking powder
Heat oven to 170C
Place oranges in a saucepan, cover with water and boil for one hour. Remove from water and cool.
In a food processor beat eggs and sugar until pale and creamy.
Add nut meal and baking powder
Add cool and chopped oranges and whiz to a smooth consistency.
Place in a lined and buttered spring-form pan and bake for approximately one hour. Let it cool int he pan before removing to cooling tray.
Serve with slices of fresh orange (skin off ) and vanilla yoghurt.
Recipe by Diane Hart, visit her website for more delicious seasonal recipes and food garden inspiration: Growfoodslowfood.com