By Jerome Dalton
Local and seasonal. It’s the mantra of most chefs when we’re writing our menus. We’re lucky - we have suppliers at the markets who tell us what’s in season when. For the average consumer however, it’s more difficult, because supermarkets tend to have everything all year around.
Found grapes in winter or spring? They’re most likely from the US. And that asparagus (if it’s May, June or July) has probably been shipped from Peru or Mexico. Imported produce may be cheaper but some of it also undergoes ‘phytosanitary irradiation’, which can affect the vitamin A, C and E content.
Imported fruit and veg can also lack flavour because it’s usually been picked early so it doesn’t get over-ripe in transit. Of course it’s important we support our farmers too, so there will always be lots of choice. Cheap Chinese garlic practically wiped out the small Australian garlic industry in the 1990s. But fortunately a growing interest by consumers has seen it slowly building up again – although the Chinese stuff (said to be grown with chemicals banned in Australia) still makes up the majority of garlic we consume.
The Australian garlic season runs from the end of November to the end of May and if you’ve never tried really fresh new season garlic, which is crisp and juicy, you’re in for a real treat. Try Patrice Newell’s garlic which you can order online as soon as it’s harvested.
It’s pretty simple really; the best fruit and veg, for taste, health and our economy is Australian produce in season. Make friends with your greengrocer, as they are usually much more in touch with the market and what’s in season than any supermarket employee.
Furthermore, their small business and consequent lack of storage mean they have to turn over the produce quickly, so it’s fresh. Use your nose; pick up and smell the produce, squeeze lightly to test for ripeness and take advantage of those little sample bowls greengrocers often offer to taste test. And be adventurous, think outside the square and try something new - there’s a lot more to discover beyond peas and carrots or apples and oranges.
Head to my website for a couple of recipes using produce in season right now.
Dalton Hospitality Catering and Events
95 Clyde Rd, Herston P 0404 219 757