Fresh and Fruity for the festive season

by Jann-Marie Ross

Your guide to all that is fresh and fruity in the Whau, especially aimed at newcomers to Auckland. The Festive Season is here. Look for the seasonal stars to make your Christmas table pop.  Advice on what is good buying, planting, or in season at the moment. have a great planting guide that I would recommend for more detail on growing. There is still time to plant, but only if you have access to water for your plants, as restrictions are easing but still in place.

Apples are available all year, although the season for picking is Feb to May.  Softer and damaged apples are cheap. They taste great stewed with brown sugar, cinnamon and a little water, or used in baking.  Apple sauce is popular with pork on Xmas Day.  

Avocado makes a great addition to salads, or as an alternative spread to butter.  Smash them on toast with salt and pepper. Guacamole is a favourite.  Vegan desserts often use avocado for a creamy texture without dairy.

Apricots These have appeared in store, but in the first half of December they are sour and expensive.  They price will drop.  Go for deep orange with a soft but firm skin.

Bananas are the most popular fruit in NZ.  They are imported and available all year round.  Used in smoothies, baking and desserts, or just to eat.  Mash them onto toast and sprinkle with sugar.  You can grow some varieties yourself, but most just buy them.

Blueberries Buy frozen for value.  Plant all year round.  From here the price for fresh blueberries will start to drop, especially after Christmas Day.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Blackberry Harvest is Dec to March.  Buy frozen for value. From here the price will start to drop, especially after Christmas Day.

Boysenberries Begin to come into season, price is still high.  Buy frozen for value.  From here the price of fresh berries will start to drop, especially after Christmas Day.

Cherries These appear instore but the price is high until after Xmas.  Go for dark cherries, with a tight shiny skin.  Bright red cherries are not ripe.  Ranier cherries are yellow when ripe.

Grapes Available all year round but currently expensive as imported.  You can grow grapes yourself but it can be tricky.

Kiwifruit Buy green kiwifruit for a tart taste, and golden for a sweeter version.  Eat with a spoon or add to salads.  They are in season April to October so price is high.  Great on top of a pavlova for a sweet sour taste. 

Lemons Grown in many backyards.  Juice them, or use them as a contrast to sweet flavours.  If you make a hot lemon drink, let the water cool before adding the lemon.  Vitamin C does not like heat.  Lemon curd is a great pie filling or spread. Great in salad dressings. 

Limes Great to add to Asian cooking or dressings.

Mandarin The perfect healthy snack.  They are available in shops now, go for a mandarin that is easy to peel.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Nectarines These have appeared but the first ones are always expensive and sour.  Go for deep red in colour.  The price will drop as Christmas approaches.

Oranges Add to salads, peel and eat, or juice. 

Passionfruit Plant now.

Pears Peak harvest is Feb/March but usually available all year. 

Raspberry Begin to come into season but price will be high until Xmas. Buy frozen for value now.

Tangelos A cross between a mandarin and a grapefruit.  In season September to December. SEASONAL STAR!!!

Watermelon Plant now for summer.  Going to be in short supply this year.

Asparagus Boil till bright green and serve with olive oil or butter, salt and pepper.  Makes wonderful soup and is great in a quiche.  Price is low until the season is over in Jan.  Planting takes 2 years to harvest from crowns planted in winter, then crops for years to come. SEASONAL STAR!!!

Beans Plant now. Buying is good value as they are in season Nov to May. Snails and slugs will try to eat young plants.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Beetroot Best harvested Nov to April. 

Broccoli and Broccolini are always in season.  Cook them till they are bright green and no more, for the best food value.  You can grow these at this time of year but they take a while and attract fat green caterpillars.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Bok Choy is used in stir fries.  It grows fast and is cheap.  It will grow in your garden at this time of year but snails and slugs also love it.  New Zealand has a wide range of vegetables available introduced by immigrants from Asia.  Plant now.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Broad beans Harvest now.

Brussel sprouts.  Love them or hate them.  These are in season May to October so not available.

Cabbage is cheap and can be boiled, steamed or used in a stir fry or coleslaw.  It keeps well in the fridge.  Cabbage is available all year. Purple cabbage looks great in a coleslaw, but if you cook it, the purple tint colours all the other ingredients.  Chinese cabbage is softer and fleshier.  You can grow cabbage at this time of year but they attract white butterfly.  Most Kiwis switch to lettuce growing in warmer weather, or use cabbage raw in coleslaws. 

Capsicum Plant now.  Looks great in stir fry and salad

Carrots are available all year, but are at their best in winter months. They keep well in the fridge. Grate them, dice them and slice them, a very versatile vegetable.  Try microwaving with orange juice, and honey.  Plant now.  

Cauliflower is cheapest in winter and keeps well in fridge.  Still good value right now.  Great with a cheese sauce. 

Celery Available all year, easy to grow in summer.  Very versatile. 

Cucumber Plant now ready for summer salads. Cucumber sandwiches are delicious. SEASONAL STAR!!!

Courgette Plant now but needs lots of room and full sun.  Good buying right now.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Chilli Plant now.

Daikon Radish A large radish you can grate or slice into salads.

Eggplant Plant now.

Fresh herbs A herb garden is a great asset to a cook.  Harvest chives, rosemary and thyme.  Plant coriander, and basil.  Rosemary is not soft like the other herbs, it is best cooked in a little oil to release the flavour, or rubbed onto roasts.  Mint grows prolifically in New Zealand, plant it in a pot as it is invasive.  Mint is great in summer drinks.  Parsley will grow all year round and is easy to look after.  Bay leaves will grow on a shrub in the back yard and are great in curries. SEASONAL STARS!!!

Garlic Plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest.  Available all year round.  The NZ grown garlic is more expensive but more flavoursome than Chinese imported garlic.  Garlic bolts are inexpensive, sweet and crunchy in stir fries.

Ginger Available all year around as it is imported.

Kale Available all year round. SEASONAL STAR!!!

Kumara Plant now and harvest in February.  Boil or roast.  A kumara roasted in a little oil is hard to beat.

Leek Available all year round but more plentiful in winter.  Great with cheese sauce, or in a soup.  Plant August till April, but it does take a while to be ready to harvest.

Lettuce So easy to grow you can do it in a pot.  Plant now, harvest now.  Generally there are two types, heading lettuce like Iceberg involves cutting off the whole head when ready.  The second type is a picking lettuce, you pluck off leaves and leave the rest growing, eg Frisby.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Onions Good buying all year round.

Peas Plants like spring and autumn, in the summer months they get diseases easily.  They are ready to harvest now.

Potatoes These crop in the warmer months and are easy to grow, although in Auckland they often suffer from psyllids.  Be aware that they will keep coming up season after season as you always miss a few.  Plant now.  New Zealand’s most popular vegetable.  Never eat green potatoes, they are poisonous.  New potatoes are in season now, cook with skins on after washing.  Drizzle with butter.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Pumpkin Plant now.

Parsnips Out of season.

Radish Plant now and add to salads.  A colourful and crunchy addition.

Rocket Grows plentifully at this time of year in your garden.  Water or it will go to seed. SEASONAL STAR!!!

Rhubarb Harvest now.  Never eat the leaves as they are poisonous.  Cut stalks into chunks, cover with water and boil till soft and falling apart.  Add sugar to taste.  Adding a few frozen berries can improve the colour if it looks more green than red. SEASONAL STAR!!!

Silver beet. A New Zealand Favourite. Plant now.  So easy to grow in your home garden, but snails and slugs love it too.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Spinach Grows plentifully in back yards at this time of year.  When buying, use quickly as it deteriorates.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Spring Onion Great buying and growing all year round.  Plant the bottoms and they will grow again.  Easy to grow from seed in your garden.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Sweetcorn Plant now.  Buy frozen or tinned for value now.  Cobs are in store but price will drop from here on.

Tomatoes Plant now.  I recommend Sweet 100 and Money Maker.  One of the most popular fresh foods in NZ. Harvest and buy.  SEASONAL STAR!!!

Watercress Wash before eating and use quickly.  Lovely with lemon and olive oil.

Yams Delicious roasted in a little oil, add a little balsamic vinegar if you wish.

Keep in mind spring and autumn in NZ are usually warm and rainy.  These conditions give many new plants and shrubs the best chance to survive. 

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