Fresh in season Autumn
Published : March 05, 2018
Best fruits and vegetables to choose right now...
Buy the freshest, tastiest produce this Autumn while also saving money.
A daily dose of these crunchy little beauties will not only keep the doctor away, it will have you glowing from the inside out. Apples are packed with antioxidants that not only help protect you from disease but also promote strong bones, shiny hair and clear skin. They are also very versatile and can be enjoyed raw or cooked any number of ways, try them stewed for breakfast, in a salad with toasted walnuts and blue cheese, made into chutneys or sauces and served with pork dishes, or baked on their own or in pies and crumbles (Australia’s very own variety, the Granny Smith, is especially good for this).
As well as being economical and very good for you, Asian greens such as bok choi and Chinese broccoli (also known as gai lan) are quick and easy to prepare and very tasty. Rich in Vitamin C, dietary fibre and beta-carotene, Asian greens only need very light cooking or their texture and colour will be lost. They will shine when gently stir-fried with fresh garlic, ginger and chilli, but dress sparingly with soy or oyster sauce and a drop of sesame oil so as not to overwhelm their magnificent flavour.
Packed full of Vitamins C and E, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, avocadoes are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Whip one up with some Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, and a little sweet chilli or Tabasco sauce, and dip your way to health and happiness.
Available all year but at their best between April and June, and August and October, Australian bananas are chock-full of dietary fibre, Vitamins C and B6 and potassium. For a fast burst of natural energy, just grab one, peel and go and go and go.
Rich in Vitamin C and a great source of fibre, folate and iron, these tasty legumes have got what you need to stay fighting fit and on top of your game. Beans are very versatile and can be steamed, stir-fried, boiled, steamed or eaten raw, try a hearty salad of steamed green beans, toasted almonds and feta, enjoy broad beans mashed with pea and mint on toast, or make a deliciously rich stew with butter beans.
Much loved by the Italians, who first brought it to Australia, broccoli is rich in minerals, fibre and various vitamins, but scientists believe it contains natural chemicals that stimulate the immune system and can prevent cancer cells from growing. Steam broccoli for five minutes (when overcooked it loses nutrients and flavour) then drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper for a delicious side dish.
Anyone who has ever had these lovely little vegetables done right would never say a bad word about them. With similar health benefits to broccoli, Brussels sprouts have a delicate, almost nutty taste and a wonderful texture, but suffer dreadfully from overcooking, which renders them grey and pongy and spoils their flavour. Try them thinly sliced and sautéed with butter, or sliced in half, rubbed lightly with olive oil and roasted with garlic and bacon, you’ll never look back.
Like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower, cabbage is another member of the super-good-for-you brassica family. Enjoy red, white, green or savoy cabbages boiled, baked, steamed, sautéed, stuffed or raw, but remember that when cooking any variety of cabbage it is best to do so briefly, as overcooking will cause it to smell and lose its delicious flavour. Savoy cabbage is a treat in Asian cuisine, try it in stir-fries with ginger and garlic.
All capsicums start off green with a lovely sharp, peppery flavour, which mellows and becomes increasingly sweet as they ripen to yellow, orange and red. Capsicums can be eaten raw or cooked, and are used in many Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Thai and Chinese dishes, try them in stir-fries, on pizzas, in paella and pasta sauces, or stuffed with couscous and roasted.
Cheap, versatile and high in beta-carotene, carrots have a natural sweetness that makes them at home in any number of dishes from coleslaw, salads, soups, stews and curries to carrot cake, smoothies and juice. They can be used raw, boiled, steamed, sautéed and baked, will caramelise beautifully when roasted, and make a heavenly combination with butter, honey and thyme.
Although cauliflowers are available all year, they are at their best in winter, which is why cauliflower cheese is especially delicious in the colder months. Like the other members of the brassica family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage) overcooking cauliflower will do it no favours, steaming florets for 5-10 minutes is best.
Raw celery has a delightfully juicy crunch that makes it great for salads and snacking, try dipping the stalks in avocado dip and salsa as a healthy alternative to chips. But there is more to celery than just its stalks—the leafy tops can be used in salads and soups, and the base of the celery becomes deliciously creamy and sweet when braised.
As well as being rich in minerals, vitamins and dietary fibre, chestnuts are bursting with Vitamin C and, unlike other nuts, are relatively low in calories, which is why every Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere, you can find these sweet, crumbly nuts being roasted and turned into stuffing and soups, added whole to stews and casseroles, or cooked in sugar syrup to make marrons glacés. Chestnut purée can also replace potato as a savoury mash, or sweetened used in desserts. For quick cooking and easy peeling, prick the shell with a sharp knife and microwave for around 20 seconds.
Once you fall in love with chilli it’s hard to go without the fiery touch it lends to dishes from all over the world, it’s great in Mexican salsa, Indian and Thai curries and Chinese Szechuan dishes, and lifts Italian pasta sauces to another level. For a hot chocolate with a special kick, split a fresh red chilli lengthwise and remove the seeds, then add it to the saucepan when heating the milk and remove before serving.
Best value from December to May, cucumbers have been grown for thousands of years in India, where they make a delicious and cooling accompaniment to hot curries when combined with yoghurt and spices as raita. They were also much loved by the Romans and Ancient Greeks, and are essential ingredients in tzatziki and Greek salads, but while they are best enjoyed raw, cucumbers can also be steamed, stir-fried, stuffed and baked, or made into soup.
Although native to South East Asia, the eggplant is grown all over the world and is the star ingredient in a number of iconic dishes, including the Middle Eastern dip baba ghanoush, Greek moussaka, Thai curries, North African tagines and the Italian eggplant parmagiana. If you are planning to fry eggplant, it is a good idea to salt it first, as this rids it of excess moisture and prevents it from soaking up too much oil, simply sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the cut surfaces and leave for at least 20 minutes before rinsing off and patting dry.
Native to the Middle East and Mediterranean, the fig is a heavenly fruit that is positively bursting with health benefits. Sweet and juicy with a delectable flavour and velvety texture, figs are rich in dietary fibre, potassium and antioxidants such as Vitamins A, E and K. There is any number of dessert recipes involving figs (including simply baking them with brown sugar and a touch of butter and serving with cream), but they are a revelation in savoury dishes, such as in salads with blue cheese and toasted walnuts, baked into tarts with goat’s curd and caramelised onion, or even added to pizza with pancetta.
Originally from South East Asia, ginger is chock-full of powerful antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, Vitamin B6, potassium, manganese and copper. Its medicinal properties have been widely regarded in oriental herbal remedies for more than 5000 years, and it is often used to treat nausea, inflammation, colds and flu. Ginger is a match made in heaven with garlic and chilli in stir-fries, curries and marinades, and adds a new delicious dimension to cocktails, juices and desserts, try grating it fresh into apple pie.
Need a quick energy lift? Put down the candy jar and pick up a bunch of grapes instead. Not only are grapes full of slow-release carbohydrates that will keep the pep in your step for longer, but they are also rich in fibre, health-boosting antioxidants, Vitamin C and potassium. Best of all, grapes are sweet, juicy and absolutely delicious, and work equally well in any number of sweet and savoury dishes, try them on pizza or in a salad with blue cheese and toasted walnuts.
The kiwifruit, which is originally from China, used to be known as the Chinese gooseberry before the New Zealand growers renamed it, but whatever you call it, this is one nutritious and delicious fruit. Kiwifruit is rich in Vitamins C and E and both its black seeds and skin are extremely high in dietary fibre, if you want to try eating them skin and all but aren’t too keen on the fuzz, a good rub with paper towel should get rid of it. Kiwifruit also contains an enzyme that can be used to tenderise meat, but they can become bitter when cooked so are best eaten raw, their lovely emerald green colour is great for decorating pavolvas, while their slight tartness partners beautifully with the rich cream and sugar.
Leeks were enjoyed in Egypt as far back as 3000BC and were especially popular with the Romans, who are thought to have introduced them to Europe. Leeks have similar immune-boosting properties to onions, but their milder flavour means they are never overpowering. Fry sliced leek and use as a garnish for Asian dishes, try them in delicious creamy bakes or pastas, or whip up a classic potato and leek soup.
Lemons originated in the Punjab region of Pakistan and India, and have worked their way up through the ranks to become a kitchen essential all over the world. Although very tart, this citrus fruit combines beautifully with all manner of ingredients and their zest or juice can be used to add a delicious tang to everything from juices and dips to desserts and savoury dishes, such as Morrocan-style chicken or couscous and anything involving seafood. Lemons are also high in Vitamin C, which can help ward off disease, and when mixed with honey in warm water make a soothing natural remedy for sore throats.
There are almost as many types of lettuce as there are stars in the sky (okay, maybe not quite as many, but it’s close!), and although they all look very different, each one is as nutritious as it is delicious, with darker leaves being a good source of beta-carotene, and most varieties providing folate, Vitamin C and dietary fibre. Lettuce is most often served raw and the different types lend themselves to different uses, crisp leaves such as ice-berg, cos and frisée can handle heavy dressings like blue cheese or Caesar, while the floppier varieties, including rocket, oak leaf, butter lettuce and lamb’s tongue, are better suited to vinaigrettes.
Tangy and fragrant limes add a zingy and refreshing touch to everything from drinks to desserts, and can be used to naturally enhance the flavour of other food. Because they also pack a mighty punch of Vitamin C, lime juice was given to English sailors on long sea voyages to stop them getting scurvy, which is how they became known as ‘Limeys’. Limes are very popular in Mexican, South American, Indian and South East Asian cuisine, try them in Thai curries and seafood dishes, or adding their juice to dips such as guacamole and aioli.
Mandarins are highly nutritious treats that are chock-a-block with vitamins, antioxidants, folate, minerals and fibre. They also make a delicious and juicy snack and come in their own handy, easy-to-peel packaging, which makes them perfect for lunchboxes!
Mushrooms are magnificent, hey are one of the few natural sources of Vitamin D and the only fresh non-animal food source of Vitamin B12. They also contain cancer-fighting antioxidants, folate and a range of B-Vitamins that may help to relieve stress, depression and fatigue. The many varieties of mushrooms lend themselves to any number of different dishes, woodears give a wonderful chewy texture to soups and stir-fries, portabellas are delicious stuffed and roasted, and button mushrooms are heavenly when sautéed with garlic, butter and thyme. Ask a friendly Trader for tips on the best way to prepare a certain variety.
It is no coincidence that the nashi gets its name from the Japanese word for pear—in fact the two are distant relatives, but the nashi’s long isolation in the East caused it to evolve differently, developing its uniquely flavour and crisp, juicy texture. Nashi are high in fibre and a good source of antioxidants, folate and Vitamin C, and can be enjoyed in a number of sweet and savoury dishes, try them as a substitute for apple or pear in salads or as part of a cheese plate, with roast pork or in chicken stir-fry, as part of a fruit crumble or simply fresh as a healthy snack.
Like peaches, this sweet and juicy fruit is high in Vitamins C and E, fibre and potassium and also comes in white and yellow varieties. Nectarines are a real treat to eat on their own and make delightful desserts, but they also add a real zing to savoury dishes, try them roasted in salads with fresh rocket, pomegranate seeds and feta, or made into salsa and served with chicken, pork or seafood.
Okra originated from Africa and is very popular in Indian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Southern American cuisine, where it is a traditional ingredient in gumbo. Given its widespread appeal, it’s no surprise that okra lends itself to a wide variety of dishes, including curries, stir-fries, soups and stews, try sautéing it in oil with garlic, onion cumin and turmeric.
Native to Asia, onions are a vital ingredient in recipes all over the world. Regularly eating onions lowers the risk of heart disease and may protect against certain types of cancer, and it’s easy to do because there is almost no end to the savoury dishes that can be improved by adding onion—from soups, stews, casseroles, stir-fries and curries to tarts, omelettes, pasta sauces and pizza toppings. White and red onions generally have the mildest flavour, and brown onions the strongest.
Oranges (Navel, Valencia)
Like many other citrus fruits, oranges originated in Asia, between southwest China and northwest India, before being brought to Europe by the Portuguese. On the way to Australia, the First Fleet stopped in at Brazil to stock up on oranges, and planted orange trees within days of settling on our shores. Navel oranges are the best for eating, while Valencias are great for juicing.
A good source of folate and potassium, parsnips have a sweet, earthy flavour that makes them perfect for comforting winter soup and stews. Parsnips caramelise beautifully when roasted and are delicious when mashed with garlic and olive oil.
January to July is the best time to buy passionfruit, which are rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin C, and have the highest source of dietary fibre, riboflavin, niacin and iron of any fruit. Passionfruit can be added to juices or smoothies, is a delicious and healthy way to start the day with Greek yoghurt on cereals or porridge, is an essential ingredient in every truly sensational fruit salad, and its slightly tart seeds make it the perfect foil for the sweetness of pavlova.
When these little beauties are in season everything is just peaches and cream—or at least peaches and yoghurt. This is one of the most popular fruits in the world, and for good reason, peaches smell and taste absolutely gorgeous. They are also high in Vitamin C and fibre, and although their sweetness means they make delicious desserts, they also partner well with seafood and are great in salads, try adding grilled peach slices to a salad of rocket, king prawns and avocado.
Packham, Beurre Bosc, Winter Nelis, Corella/Forelle. Josephine, Red Anjou pears are high in fibre with a low glycaemic index (GI), pears deliver a powerful punch of long-lasting energy and are delicious served in both sweet and savoury dishes. Try them poached with ice cream or on porridge, serve them with cheese or in a salad, or just take a bite for a healthy snack on the go.
Their are two main varieties of plums, European, which are oval or oblong in shape and range in colour from pink to purple, and Japanese, which range in colour from yellow to red and are more round or heart shaped. But whichever variety you go for, plums are a yummy low-calorie source of fibre and slow-release energy, making them a great snack to tide you over between meals. A healthy breakfast of fresh or poached plums on porridge is not only a delicious way to start the day, it will also keep your tank full until lunch.
Originally from Iran, pomegranates are now mainly grown in the Middle East, India, Spain and America. Pomegranates are an excellent source of Vitamin C and K, antioxidants, potassium and folate, and its beautiful jewel-like seeds have a sweet and tart flavour that works well in both sweet and savoury dishes, try sprinkling some on your porridge, or including them in a salad with roasted beets, fetta, rocket, avocado and toasted pine nuts.
Potatoes contain antioxidants, fibre, more potassium than bananas and almost half of the recommended daily intake for Vitamin C, however, these and other wonderful nutritional benefits are lost or negated when they are deep-fried or hidden under mounds of cheese, butter and sour cream. Keep spuds healthy by roasting them in garlic, herbs and a little olive oil, adding boiled potatoes to a fresh light salad and tossing with vinaigrette, or including them in stews, curries and soups.
Although available all year, pumpkin is at its best in autumn, which is fitting, as it has a sweet, honey-like and slightly nutty flavour that is perfect for any number of comforting cold-weather dishes. This versatile member of the squash family is loaded with antioxidants including beta-carotene, Vitamins A, C and K, potassium and folic acid—and is beloved over the world. Pumpkin is great in risottos, pastas, stews and curries, on pizzas and as dip, and can be turned into anything from oven-roasted chips and soups to pumpkin pie, the creamy and sweet spiced dessert favoured by North Americans.
Rhubarb is rich in iron, folate and Vitamins A, B6 and C, but is too tart to be eaten raw. However, rhubarb’s juicy stalks can be made into gorgeous jams and sauces, and is a match made in heaven with apples in pies, muffins and crumbles. Before cooking, make sure you cut off and discard the leaves as they are poisonous and should not be eaten.
Although it can be used in exactly the same way as spinach, silverbeet (or Swiss chard) is in fact a member of the beetroot family. This leafy green is packed full of folate, vitamins and fibre, and its leaves and juicy stalks are a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, try it in quiches, soups and pasta dishes, as a baked dish with fetta and chopped tomatoes, or simply steamed and lightly dressed with olive oil, garlic and a touch of salt.
Spinach packs a powerful punch of fibre, folate and beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against sun damage, heart disease and cancer. Among the many virtues of this green are its soft, juicy leaves and strong flavour that goes beautifully with dairy and eggs, try a yummy ricotta and spinach pie or add it to your scrambled eggs.
Full of fibre and rich in Vitamins A, B6 and C, sweet potatoes come in two varieties, one with pale cream flesh and the bright orange variety (which are also high in beta-carotene) and have a sweet flavour similar to chestnuts. They can be roasted, baked and mashed, are delicious in curries, and make a lovely alternative to regular potatoes as a topping for shepherd’s pie.
Next time you’re at a barbecue surrounded by fatty store-bought burgers and sausages, and mayonnaise-heavy pasta salads, re-think your options and reach for the healthy choice, a delicious, golden ear of char-grilled corn on the cob. With about as many calories as an apple and less than a quarter of the sugar, sweetcorn contains slow-release carbohydrates for long-lasting energy as well as Vitamin C and potassium. Corn has been growing for thousands of years in the Americas, in the area from Brazil to southern Canada, and is a major component of Mexican cuisine, where they also enjoy char-grilled corn on the cob (with smoky fresh lime and chilli mayonnaise and Cotija cheese) as the popular street food, elote.
Tomatoes may look pretty, but they don’t shy away from a fight at least, not when it comes to free radicals, inflammation, heart disease and many cancers. These little beauties are loaded with Vitamins A, B, C and E, potassium and fibre, and also contain a powerful antioxidant, lycopene, which will all have you glowing with health from the inside out. Native to western South America, tomatoes have been staple ingredients in Mexican dishes for the past 2000 years, but their incredible flavour and versatility has seen them embraced by different cultures all around the world, and they have become essential in Mediterranean cuisine, try them raw, baked, stewed, fried or pureed in everything from salads, soups to stews and sauces.
This summer squash, which is from the same family as the cucumber and melon, delivers a healthy dose of beta-carotene, folate and Vitamin C. The zucchini (or courgette) was taken to Spain from South America in the 16th century and went off like a shot in Europe, where it became an essential ingredient of the classic French dish ratatouille. Zucchinis can be made into fritters for breakfast, thinly sliced or grated raw into salads, barbecued as part of a veggie skewer or simply lightly fried in a little olive oil or even made into deliciously moist muffins, breads and cakes.