23 May 2011

Unique produce

There's much I love about the blessing of having the wonderful folk of FIG, supply us with beautiful, fresh produce to nourish us all through our week. But one thing I've really been appreciating of late is the opportunity to try some less common produce that I definitely never found when shopping in a mainstream environment for our fresh fruit and veg.
We've been enjoying many unique and new produce items of late and I always look forward to seeing mysterious produce items in the choices list on Sunday night, then googling the new produce to see just what exactly these wonderful things are, and how I would use them!
For a while now we've been enjoying crook neck squash. They're so sweet with their little crook necks. They make cute little mini stuffed cups. We scoop out the middle, stuff with our favourite filling and bake. We make a savoury rice and mince mix, stuff it in the little squash cups, sprinkle with grated cheese and baked it in the oven. The shell goes nice and crispy, the squash is sweet and the cheese melts perfectly over the top. We roast the seeds and serve them sprinkled over the top. The perfect accompaniment to our warm Autumn meal.

The nettles that have been coming are wonderful! I must tell you that I was so keen to try them the first week we decided on nettles, that I promptly ripped the bag open, plunged my hand in and brought it straight back out of the bag covered in stings! OOOOPS! Yes, I did know they sting - and yes, I SHOULD have watched this video about how to handle nettles BEFORE I plunged my hand into the bag. We've been enjoying our nettles juiced in our morning green juices. They add a wonderful Autumn zing to the juice!
Kohlrabi has been back for guest appearances on the extras table. We have enjoyed the leaves and stalks roasted on oven trays, drizzled with a smidgen of oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted on a highish heat until crisp. Perfect, healthy, homemade crisps. A delicious Autumn treat.
We were so disappointed when we forgot to use our wild pine mushrooms. By the time I found them tucked away in the fridge at the end of the week, they weren't in the best using condition anymore. Mushrooms really do call to be used quite quickly. I was speaking today to someone who harvests some of FIG's wild pine mushrooms, and he told me that a customer in Sydney mentioned to him that the wild pine mushrooms can be frozen. I'll have to look into this. Also, I thought that they would probably be good to dry or dehydrate and use just as one does dried shitake... but I'm not sure if wild pine mushrooms take so well to this? They did look so pretty and quite unique when I opened their little bag up for a look inside when we got home. We are hoping that they are available again soon, as we were looking forward to trying this recipe with them.
And the turnip greens! Not so unusual the dear old turnip - but I've not often used the greens. When the turnips turned up with the most delicious and lush looking greens the other week, I jumped online to research if I could use the greens and what nutritious goodies they contain. Turns out that the whole turnip green v's the root vegetable is alot like the situation of the beet and the green that I wrote about a while back. The greens actually contain alot more goodies than the root itself. There is so much goodness in the turnip green. The flavour is slightly spicy and we have been juicing them into our green juices, which adds a nice little spice to the mix. The turnip greens are like mustard leaves, in that, in terms of flavour, you really do need to use them sparingly unless you LOVE alot of spice. They can be a little bitter, but they balance well when accompanied with other greens. You can use the turnip greens, or "turnip tops" as they are known in the UK, either raw or lightly steamed.
And to top it all off, today we picked up some 'Japanese Raisins' at the Mangrove Mountain Country Markets! They were delicious, and now we are madly saving the seeds as we eat the fruit, to see if we can grow our very own Japanese raisin tree!

A long time since Easter!

It's been a few weeks since Easter and we've all been rather busy, running the co-op and ensuring, to the best of our abilities, that it goes along as smoothly as possible - and haven't returned to update the blog. Dearie me!

Our special Easter week co-op at Jilliby went well. Whilst there was a reduction in numbers due to the distance some of our members would need to drive, and no public transport, we still had orders for at least a third of our usual number of boxes and many of those commented on the beautiful surroundings, the peaceful valley and the great hall - and put forth the suggestion that co-op was held there every week! One of our Wyong members was overdue in having her baby and wasn't sure if she'd make it there that day. She did, but perhaps driving over that fairly short piece of rutted and corrugated road stirred up something more than a desire to get some land for her family and live out of town, as the very next day her baby was born! Congratulations to all.

The weather is growing colder as one would expect at this time of year and the more sensitive produce is slowing down or stopped for the year. Our Kirkconnell growers had 15 cms/6 inches of snow last week, and I think we were feeling the affects here on the Coast at the time.

Cold, frosty weather is good for sweetening up the oranges, we're told, so look out soon for yummy Navel oranges in the FIG boxes. We've already been enjoying mandarins, lemons and limes for a while now.

We've been trialling some potatoes from south of Sydney and they've been great, although a bit more expensive that what we normally pay. As with the produce from Kirkconnell, the potato farmer delivers to the Sydney organic markets and our driver collects them early Monday morning and then delivers it all to us. It's a great system and means no extra fuel or time is spent obtaining their vegetables. One trip does it all! For those of you keen to eat within a 160 km radius (as per the "100 mile diet"), both the Kirkconnell and Southern Highlands farms scrape in within that distance from Ourimbah.

This week we are going to be trying some Pink Lady apples from the Kirkconnell region as well. We've had some of their Gala apples and also a few Fujis, and Pink Ladies, a favourite of many, will be in the boxes today and tomorrow.

We're also hoping to have a few dragonfruit on the extras table to try, although they aren't grown locally. Kel will again be supplying his beautiful coriander and purple radishes and those superb turnips. Turnip leaves and nettle recipes will be posted here shortly.

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See you at the co-op...