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What’s in season this Spring

Apples

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).

 

Asian greens

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.

 

Asparagus

Originally from the eastern Mediterranean and Asia, asparagus is highly prized the world over for its tender, succulent spears and unique flavour. This versatile veggie is chock-full of folate, Vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium, and makes a heavenly combination with dairy and egg—try it steamed or grilled with your morning eggs, or as an ingredient in quiches and creamy pastas.

 

Avocados

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.

 

Bananas

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.

 

Beans (Broad,
Green)

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.

 

Beetroot

High in magnesium and folate, and a good source of potassium, Vitamins A, B6 and C, antioxidants and soluble fibre, beetroot has a sweet, earthy taste that makes it very versatile. They can be made into cakes, vitamin-packed juices, soups (such as that Polish and Russian favourite, borscht), or grated raw into salads—and it wouldn’t be an Aussie hamburger or salad sandwich without that thick, juicy layer of beetroot!

 

Broccoli

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.

 

Carrots

Cheap, versatile and high in beta-carotene, carrots have a lovely natural sweetness that makes them at home in any number of sweet or savoury dishes—from carrot cake and juice, to coleslaw and salads, soups, stews, curries and stir-fries. 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.

 

Cauliflower

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.

 

Cherries

Cherries start hitting the Market shelves around October and hang around until February. Bursting with Vitamin C, potassium, dietary fibre and antioxidants, cherries can be divided into three main groups: sweet, sour and hybrid. The best way to eat sweet cherries is fresh, while sour cherries make fantastic pies, tarts, cakes and sauces.

 

Chillies

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.

 

Cucumber

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.

 

Garlic

Garlic is hailed for its immune-boosting properties and many people turn to it when suffering from colds or flu, but don’t wait until you’re sick—regularly consuming fresh garlic, both raw and cooked, can help to promote and maintain general health and vitality. Garlic is an essential ingredient in Asian and European cuisine, and can be used in just about everything—from butters and dips to casseroles, stir-fries, pasta sauces and curries.

 

Globe Artichokes

At their peak from June to September, globe artichokes are low in calories, high in dietary fibre and a good source of folate, potassium and Vitamin C. Globe artichokes are considered a delicacy due to their delectable, slightly nutty flavour, and are particularly favoured by the Italians—especially when stuffed with fresh breadcrumbs, parmesan, onion, garlic and parsley, drizzled with olive oil and steamed or baked. The tender artichoke hearts can also be made into dips, enjoyed on anti pasti platters or pizzas, or added to salads, pasta dishes, frittatas or casseroles.

 

Grapefruit

Grapefruits are available all year, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck from April to November. The largest member of the citrus family is a good source of fibre, Vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which help fight infections, and comes in three varieties: yellow, ruby red and pink marsh. Grapefruit has a tart but pleasant taste (the pink and red varieties are generally sweeter than the yellow) that makes it suitable for sweet or savoury dishes—it goes particularly well with salmon, prawns and avocado. Note that grapefruits contain a substance that can interfere with certain medicines; consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

 

Lemons

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.

 

Lettuce

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.

 

Loquats

A bit like an apricot in size and colour, loquats are a very underrated fruit containing Vitamin A, rich in fibre, and contains laetrile, a vitamin that helps prevent cancer. Originally grown as ornamental trees in China, Japan and India, loquats are popular in Asian cultures, and have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to treat digestive and respiratory issues. Sweet and tangy, loquats make delicious desserts as pies and crumbles, go great with onion and spices in chutneys, and their high pectin content makes them ideal for jams and jellies.

 

Mandarins (Honey Murcott)

Mandarins are highly nutritious treats 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!

 

Mangoes

As if being oh so unbelievably sweet and tasty wasn’t enough, mangoes are packed with fibre and potassium, have more beta-carotene than any other fruit, and contain up to three times the recommended daily intake of Vitamins C and A. The Australian season runs from September to March, with many different varieties available during this time—and as well as being great in any number of desserts (especially if you’ve also invited passionfruit to the party), mangoes make lovely complement to seafood dishes, particularly those with Asian flavours.

 

Melons

Though very different in many ways, watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew melon are all equally delicious and nutritious. Rockmelon and watermelon are both rich in the immune-boosting Vitamins A and C, while watermelon is also a good source of iron and the powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene. Honeydew is also high in Vitamin C, and all three melons contain potassium. Honeydew makes deliciously creamy smoothies and cocktails, and rockmelon partners well with shellfish and prosciutto, and while watermelon can also be served in any number of creative ways, on hot summer days a wedge of this sweet, juicy treat is a little slice of heaven.

 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are magnificent—they 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.

 

Onions

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 (Blood,
Navel,
Seville, 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 and blood oranges are the best for eating, while Valencias are great for juicing and the sour-tasting Sevilles make excellent marmalade. Oranges give a wonderful zing to desserts—in particular blood oranges, which make for truly stunning presentation thanks to their beautiful deep red colour.

 

Papaya

Papaya has a beautiful rosy flesh with yellow-orange skin and a subtle, sweet flavour. Papayas are rich in Vitamin C and a good source of beta-carotene, which is an important antioxidant for maintaining healthy skin and eyes as well as general wellbeing. At breakfast, combining papaya with low-fat dairy, such as in a smoothie or atop Greek yoghurt, not only makes for a nutritious and delicious start to the day, but can also increase the amount of beta-carotene you absorb from the fruit. Green papaya is often used in Asian cuisine and is a refreshing complement to chicken and seafood.

 

Passionfruit

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.

 

Pawpaw

Although often confused with papaya, pawpaws are larger and rounder with pale orange skin. As opposed to the sweet, pinkish-orange flesh of the papaya, the yellow flesh of the pawpaw has a more savoury flavour that lends itself well to fresh spring salads­ and as a cooling partner to chilli—try serving a spicy pawpaw salsa with grilled fish, chicken or pork.

 

Peas

Peas are positively popping with goodness—they are one of the best vegetable sources of dietary fibre, are a good source of Vitamins C and B3, potassium, beta-carotene and folate, and are rich in protein. In fact, 100g of peas contains as much protein as an egg! Simply split the pod by gently squeezing the rounded end and pushing out the peas—they are sweet and delicious raw in salads or cooked in curries, stews or casseroles, and partner beautifully with egg and dairy in omelettes, frittatas or creamy pasta sauces.

 

Pineapples

High in Vitamins C and B6, manganese and potassium, pineapples are a sweet and healthy way to kick sugar cravings to the curb. Their tangy taste also makes pineapples great in pork and chicken dishes—they even contain an enzyme that can help to tenderise the meat—and on the barbecue as part of a veggie and prawn kebab. Once picked, pineapples won’t get any sweeter and are best eaten within a few days—ask a Trader for help if you don’t know how to pick a ripe one.

 

Pomelo

Pomelos are a popular Asian fruit believed to bring prosperity and good fortune. They contain a wealth (pun intended) of immune-boosting antioxidants and are believed to help relieve sore throats, digestive disorders, inflammation and fatigue. Try including raw pomelo in Asian-style salads or adding it to pork or seafood dishes.

 

Potatoes

Don’t be a tater hater because spuds aren’t duds! 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.

 

Raspberries

Although available all year, when buying raspberries you get the best bang for your buck from December to February. This super summer treat is known as ‘the king of the berries’ and it packs a right royal punch of dietary fibre and Vitamin C. Raspberries also have a ruby red hue and mouth-watering flavour that will jazz up everything from breakfast cereals to pavlovas and custard tarts, and their slight tartness goes particularly well with the sweetness of cream and chocolate—try sprinkling fresh raspberries on chocolate mousse.

 

 

Rhubarb

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.

 

Silverbeet

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.

 

Snow and Sugar Snap Peas

Munching on these yummy peas is like popping multi-vitamin pills—except better, because they are fresh, natural and you can eat the packaging!—due to their high levels of Vitamin C, potassium, fibre, protein, folate and beta-carotene. Snow and sugar snap peas feature prominently in Asian dishes and they are also popular in France and England, where they are called mangetout. They can be enjoyed raw in salads or cooked, but be careful not to overdo it—they don’t need long to become tender so adding them at the last minute to curries and stir-fries is best.

 

Spinach

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.

 

Spring Onion

Spring onions are in fact very young onions harvested before the bulb has swollen. The green shoots have a mild and delicate flavour, which intensifies as you reach the white bulbs, and both can be enjoyed either raw or cooked—try combining uncooked spring onion with chicken, mayonnaise and celery in sandwiches, using it as a garnish for soup, or adding it to stir-fries.

 

Strawberries

Forget expensive beauty creams and hair products—a handful of berries a day is all you need for glowing skin and luscious locks. Vitamin pills, too, can be discarded in favour of the real thing, because berries are jam-packed (pun intended!) with antioxidants to keep your immune system in top-notch fighting form and have you radiating good health. There is a bountiful supply of freshly picked strawberries at the Market every day during the warmer months, so make the most of the budget-friendly prices and scatter them on your breakfast, make fresh strawberry smoothies, or include them in summer fruit salads and enjoy with natural yoghurt, a drizzle of honey and fresh mint for dessert.

 

Sweetcorn

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.

 

Tangelos

Tangelos combine the flavour and easy peeling of a mandarin with the juiciness of an orange, and have a hint of grapefruit-like tartness. Like most citrus fruits, tangelos are chock-full of immune-boosting Vitamin C, and they can be eaten raw as a snack or used in exactly the same way you would use mandarins or oranges—including baked into tangy cakes and puddings, made into marmalade, and juiced. Try adding halved tangelo segments to a salad of baby spinach leaves, toasted walnuts, sliced red onion and avocado, with a walnut oil, freshly squeezed tangelo juice and caramelized balsamic dressing—this makes a great side dish for grilled chicken.

 

Tomatoes

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.

 

Watercress

Another leafy green bursting with natural goodness, watercress is a peppery little super food that is exceptionally high in beta-carotene and has more Vitamin C than oranges, more Vitamin E than broccoli, more iron than spinach and more calcium than whole milk! The most ancient green vegetable known to man, watercress can be traced back to the Persians, Roman and Ancient Greeks and has a rich history—it was on the menu at the first Thanksgiving feast, and Captain James Cook took it on his voyages to combat scurvy. The Italians add sprigs to minestrone soups and enjoy it fresh in salad, the English love it in sandwiches, and it has long been appearing in popular Chinese soups such as wonton, egg drop and watercress.

 

Zucchini

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 bang 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.

 

Zucchini flowers

If you’re hosting a dinner party and want to impress your guests, serving zucchini flowers is a sure way to do it. These yummy delicacies look gorgeous and taste even better, and preparing them is much easier than you might think. Zuchinni flowers are very popular in the Mediterranean and partner beautifully with cheese, cream, pancetta and prosciutto—try stuffing them with goat’s cheese and anchovies and shallow-frying them in a light batter.

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