Buying fresh fruit and vegetables in season is the greatest way to make the most of Australia's best produce. It's healthy, and even more economical as the plentiful supply of seasonal produce means greater value for your dollar.
What's more, keeping your supper season-centric and eating fresh foods that are at their best right now is better for the environment, with less food miles used to get the produce to the supermarket or greengrocer and/or less energy from long periods of refrigeration for out-of-season stock.
As we're currently in spring and headed for summer, here's a few our staff favourites that are in their prime now. We've even included how to pick a winner that'll be perfect to eat right away.
Sara, our Media and PR Manager, is loving Reed avocados at the moment.
"Reed avocados are perfect mashed on toast for a healthy weekend breakfast and are a fabulous addition to a springtime salad. But in my book the ultimate combination is Vegemite and avocado on Vita-Weat crackers for morning tea!"
According to Avocados Australia, Reed avocados have pale flesh and a distinct round shape. This variety is well known for remaining green even when fully ripened, which is different to their sister, the Hass. Big on size and big on taste, Reeds are grown throughout Australia and peak in November. Check out Avocados Australia for more information on other varieties, too.
Did you know that no avocados ripen on trees? According to Avocados Australia, it's actually the harvesting (picking) action that triggers the ripening process!
Marty, our Information Centre Manager, loves spring for the coming of the best, juiciest sweet corn.
"There's not much that beats fresh corn on the cob. Grilled corn would have to be my favourite - a must-have item on the summer BBQ menu. Couple with a splash of paprika-seasoned cream and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese - the best!"
When selecting the perfect cob, look for those with fresh, green husks. The kernels should be bright, plump and show no signs of wrinkling, and they're really best eaten as fresh as possible, within a day or so of purchasing them.
Did you know corn is used to make starch and some types of whiskey?
No other vegetable signifies the arrival of spring quite like asparagus. Zo, our National Tree Day Coordinator, is a creative foodie and has always loved asparagus for its versatility and interesting shape.
"One of my favourite light snacks is asparagus, goats cheese and walnut bruschetta. Perfect for the warmer weather and always a crowd favourite when served at an outdoor picnic. Steamed asparagus served with a sprinkle of olive oil and crushed almonds is also up there with the tastiest ways to use this delicious vegie!"
The Australian Asparagus Council says the best green asparagus is available from early September to March; white asparagus from September to January, and purple asparagus from October and mid December, but only in limited supplied.
When searching for the ideal bunch of asparagus, the Council advises looking for firm, bright, smooth, unblemished spears of uniform size with closed, compact tips, and when you snap freshly harvested asparagus at the base, it should be crisp, moist and juicy. Contrary to popular belief, the team at Ripe Organics says the thicker the stem, the more tender the asparagus as the majority of the fiber (tough or woody bits) is in the skin. Thinner stems have a stronger, fresh green taste, whereas the thicker stalks are more succulent and can absorb more of the other flavours in a dish.
Did you know asparagus can take the pain out of a bee sting? According to the Fresh For Kids team, just crush it up and apply to the area around the sting. Also quite incredibly, under ideal conditions, asparagus shoots can grow up to 25cm in 24 hours! They sure are fast movers!
Janet, our Recycling Campaigns Manager, has just seen her first tray of mangoes for the 2013 summer season and to say she's excited would be an understatement.
"They're my absolute favourite summer fruit. Cut off the cheeks, score the flesh like a checkerboard, turn inside out and voila! A perfect refreshing summer snack."
According to the Australian Mango Industry Association,
the best way to buy a mango is to simply use your nose. A ripe fresh
mango should have a fragrant tropical fruity aroma, a bright, full
colour and will be slightly soft when touched. Like most fruits, it's
best to avoid very soft or bruised fruit as it may be overripe and won't
have the greatest taste. Completely green mangoes may never ripen, so
best to avoid these. When unripe, the fruit won't have a fragrant scent
and if eaten raw, it can actually have an unpleasant chemical taste.
Best to avoid.
Did you know a mango is from same family as the cashew and the pistachio nut, and a mango tree doesn't actually produce fruit until it's about four years old? Amazing!
To find out more about what's in season where you are, you can visit websites such as the Sydney Markets or Australia's Seasonal Food Guide, and if you have any favourite seasonal recipes, please feel free to share on the Planet Ark Facebook page for us and all our readers. We'd love to hear from you.