In season

October 18

In now: Early-season peaches are being picked in Queensland. Not all the early-ripening, low-chill varieties have great flavour. Let fragrance be your guide.

Hard to find: We are entering the annual lemon and lime drought, when our favourite tart juicing fruit are in short supply. Gardeners may still have lemons lingering on the tree, but soon most of those available in shops will have flown here from the USA. Limes will be back in late summer.

Best buy: Green or purple kohlrabi are a crunchy addition to a salad.

In the vegie patch: Plant tomatoes in a sunny spot with rich, compost-enriched soil. Stake or provide other support. Feed often and water regularly.

What else:

  • Last of the blood oranges. Make a final granita, or freeze the juice for Campari and blood orange cocktails on summer evenings.
  • Broad beans are at their best, and cheapest.
  • There are some bargain pumpkins round too, so make the most of roast pumpkin now before it gets too hot to turn the oven on.
  • It’s the worst time of year for tomatoes so punnets of cherry tomatoes are the best option.

 

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In season

October 11

In now: Purple asparagus is a small proportion of the Australian harvest so only briefly available. Use raw to maintain that great colour.

At its best: As the weather warms bananas are back to their gleaming golden best after a grey-skinned winter.

Best buy: The pale green and white, oval-shaped chicory that is sold as Belgian endive has a mild bitter flavour that’s at its best in spring. Use in salads, or slice and sauté as a side.

In the vegie patch: Pick organically grown flowers from the garden to add to salads. Try thyme, rosemary, viola and pot marigold.

What else:

  • Lots of seedless watermelon from the Northern Territory. The original seedy version has been popular in Egypt for at least 5000 years, if evidence of seeds and leaves in ancient tombs is anything to go by.
  • Local growers are harvesting the spring flush of bok choy.
  • Add sliced zucchini flowers to a salad of soft leaves and goats cheese.
  • Given that pears were all picked in autumn, how good they are now depends on how well they’ve been stored. Sure signs of a problem – brown spots of rot developing before the fruit ripens. Beat the rot by eating them greener and firmer than you did earlier in the season.
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In season

October 4

In now: Blueberries hit a sweet peak through October when the best varieties are ripening in the north of NSW. Look for berries still showing the white bloom that indicates just-picked freshness.

At its best: If it’s footy final time it must be morel season. These honeycomb-domed fungus are one of the few springtime mushrooms, and last only until warm weather brings the flies.

Best buy: Papaya has a big flush in autumn and in spring, and the fruit arriving now from Mossman in tropical north Queensland is fragrant and sweet.

In the vegie patch: Ensure potted lemons get regular water while they are in flower.

What else:

  • With weather warming it’s possible now to find real French tarragon, rather than the coarse-flavoured but tough Russian tarragon that fools the unwary through winter.
  • Bean sprouts take about six days to grow from mung bean seeds that are spread in shallow vats. For freshest sprouts shop in Asian grocers which buy in daily.
  • Add broad beans to everything.
  • Ditto for asparagus, which is delicious raw, roasted, barbecued, steamed or stir fried.
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In season

September 20

In now: Impatient mango-lovers can hunt up early-season mangoes from around Darwin, but the sweet peak mango season is still a way off.

At its best: Broad beans are at their sweetest. The pods develop strong flavours and a mealy texture as they mature so choose small beans. If you grow your own try harvesting them at little finger size and cooking as for snowpeas, topped and tailed and enjoyed whole.

Best buy: Strawberry specials have us thinking jam, sauce, ice cream, and dehydrated strawberry chips.

In the vegie patch: Pick the peas daily to encourage a bigger harvest.

What else:

  • The blood oranges won’t be around for much longer. Eke out the season by freezing some juice. I made a blood orange granita recently, by sieving blood orange juice with lemon and sugar syrup to taste. (Remember that food doesn’t taste as sweet once it’s frozen so needs to taste a bit too sweet when it’s at room temperature.) Freeze in a shallow plastic container, and scrape with a fork every few hours to break up the ice crystals. We ate it with panna cotta ice cream and fresh raspberries and were very happy.
  • The globe artichokes are nearly over.
  • Rhubarb is very good at the moment.
  • In Melbourne last weekend I found Brussels sprouts on every menu. Trimmed, halved, boiled til tender firm and then slightly charred in pan or oven, they were matched with bacon bits; or hazelnuts and goats cheese; or pine nuts and fetta; or lemon zest, peppery green olive oil and very good salt. All delicious.
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In season

September 13

In now: Loquats are the first fruit of spring, most delicious when pale apricot rather than orange. They brown quickly after picking so eat fast or store in the fridge.

At its best: Peak Australian asparagus season is September to November. Fresh spears have tight buds and a satisfying snap.

Best buy: Choose small firm pods of okra and reduce the slime factor by stir-frying chunks at high heat before adding to sauce.

In the vegie patch: Loquat fruit is a favoured resort of fruit fly, so if you have a tree harvest all the fruit to reduce the summer risk to tomatoes.

What else:

  • had it with kale? In Kenya kale’s a staple vegie patch crop as the elephants won’t eat it. It’s nicknamed ‘sukuma wiki’, meaning ‘stretch the week’ cause it’s always available to make the week’s meals last.
  • Green mangoes herald summer – and meantime make delicious Thai salads.
  • Choose fresh firm podded peas and buy to eat, not store.
  • There are good buys in bunches of full-grown spinach.
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In season

August 30

In now: Green garlic is the shoot and bulb of garlic, harvested young, before the head of garlic cloves develops. Used like spring onions – stem, bulb and all – it has a milder flavour than mature garlic.

At its best: Blood oranges develop colour as they hang on the tree so now’s the time for richly coloured juice.

Best buy: Feast on navel oranges. Add segments to salads, and for dessert dress slices with honey, cinnamon and chopped dates, or with shaved dark chocolate and chopped pistachios.

In the vegie patch: Sow a range of lettuce into a sunny, richly prepared spot.

What else:

  • quinces won’t be around for much longer
  • the price of green beans has finally dropped back, though the flavour is still not great
  • both black-skinned hass and green-skinned reed avos are good value at the moment
  • Jerusalem artichokes are humble veg, unless you eat them at Sepia, where Martin Benn roasts them and stuffs them full of truffle and artichoke cream and tops them with shaved truffles. Might have been the dish of a wonderful long night. At home I’ll skip the truffles, but repeat the deliciousness of roasted-until-caramelised Jersulem artichokes.
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In season

August 23

In now: The world’s tastiest citrus looks like an ugly tangelo. It’s a dekopon, sold in Australia as sumo citrus, kon fruit or kon mandarin. Supplies are limited but if you see it, try it.

On the way: The Australian asparagus season officially starts on September 1 and early spears are already available.

Worth trying: Figs are a summer crop but it’s always summer in the Northern Territory and this winter the northern figs are really tasty.

In the vegie patch: Sow tomato seed into jiffy pots and keep in a warm spot inside ready to plant out as soon as the weather is reliably warm.

What else:

  • have you been making the most of the truffles? Won’t be on for much longer.
  • green garlic is garlic pulled from the ground as the bulb is just starting to develop. They look like spring onions and can be used in the same way – green bit and white bit. The flavour is milder than mature garlic with a nice grassy freshness.
  • while pears are cheap, buy some to pickle, some to chutney, some to caramelise with lots of butter and some to slice thinly, roll in lemon juice and dry in a dehydrator or low oven.
  • blood oranges are at their best at the end of winter, and this is the moment for seville oranges too. Jam makers should get busy.
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In season

August 16

In now: The early broad beans have arrived, a promise of spring not too far away.

At its best: All the brassicas improve in flavour when the weather is cold, and gai lan is no exception. Look for fresh, firm leaves, with no wilting or yellowing.

Best buy: The thick skin of the pomelo acts as a source of moisture for the fruit once it’s picked, making pomelo a good choice for the cook who turns out to have far less cooking time than anticipated. The pomelo will wait.

In the vegie patch: Mr Fothergills has released mushroom packs for grow-your-own golden or pearl oyster mushrooms. Soak the spore-impregnated brick overnight, keep moist for two weeks then harvest.

What else:

  • ruby and white grapefruit are both in great shape
  • Australian-grown pomegranates will be finished soon
  • now is not the time for beans, but the Brussels sprouts are terrific
  • try the brown and freckled squat honey pears, also called winter nelis
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In season

July 26

In now: Beetroot is available year-round but seems just the right partner for the horseradish that is so plentiful right now. Add a well-charred rare steak.

At its best: Fennel is a fresh flavour sliced thinly in salads, and something of a mystery ingredient when cooked down to a sludgy softness. Try frying up leek, garlic, finely chopped chorizo and fresh fennel. Add a can of tomatoes, and when the flavours have come together add a packet of lightly rinsed mussels. Serve with couscous and the fresh ferny tops of the fennel.

Best buy: With bean prices through the roof due to cold weather in Queensland, you might be tempted to go frozen. Most frozen vegetables are imported, so if you want local, check labels of origin carefully.

In the vegie patch: Harvest rhubarb stems by twisting them from the base of the plant. Leave a third of the stems on the plant to keep it growing.

What else:

  • Celebrate the brief truffle season. Order online from Canberra or Western Australian suppliers.
  • The cold wet weather has put a dampener on the strawberry season.
  • Afourer is a Moroccan mandarin that is the most popular mandarin in the world, if you go by sales volume alone. We prefer our Australian discovery, the Imperial. Time for a taste-off.
  • Grey-tinged bananas look sickly, but it’s just the cold. They taste fine.
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In season

July 19

In now: Cumquats aren’t just for marmalade; the whole fruit is edible. As jam makers know the skin is the best bit, but try the golden globes sliced thinly to give salads a sweet-tart-bitter lift.

At its best: Queensland-grown seedless watermelon is particularly good at the moment. If the idea of cold salad has you reaching for a beanie, try slices of watermelon grilled on the barbecue with a grind of black pepper and sprinkle of sea salt or drizzled with balsamic.

Best buy: Pickle, poach, preserve or dehydrate cheap pears.

In the vegie patch: After the cumquat harvest, prune the tree to shape and remove dead wood. Follow with citrus fertiliser to promote growth and flowers in spring.

What else:

  • there is lots of imported produce around. If you want to limit food miles and eat in season now is not the time to be enjoying stone fruit, cherries or asparagus.
  • parsnips are fashionable enough to be pricey, but swedes are still a budget buy. Peel and slice no fatter than a centimetre, fry gently in butter til starting to brown, then add a little stock and let them cook until soft.
  • swedes also add variety to the roasting tray, as do Jerusalem artichokes, plenty of which are around now.
  • winter melon is a good stir fry option. Peel, slice and fry up with garlic and/or ginger, finish with a drizzle of sesame oil, or a splash of black vinegar.

 

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In season

July 12

In now: Kalettes are a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale that look like sprouts off to the Year 10 Formal in purple ruffles. They debuted last winter and won enough fans to increase production by six times this year.

At its best: Radicchio comes as a round cabbage look-alike and as a longer, thinner endive-like version. The round one is milder and better for salads; the longer one more bitter and better for braises.

Best buy: Take advantage of cheap carrots for soup. Treated the usual way, carrots make a thin and uninspired soup, but roasted first they develop sweetness, complexity and a better texture.

In the vegie patch: Order certified virus-free seed potatoes to plant out in spring. While you wait store them in egg cartons in a warm dark spot to encourage sprouting.

What else:

  • the rockmelons are coming from the Northern Territory and they’re good.
  • hunt up fresh turmeric root now. It’s a revelation in curries.
  • there’s an occasional bargain in bunches of slim leeks.
  • swedes are at their best now until the end of winter
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In season

July 5

In now: The cold snap has coloured up the blood oranges grown in the Riverina. Also making pink juice right now are Cara Cara navels, which are sweeter and less complex in flavour than blood oranges.

At its best: The side shoots that grow when the main head is cut from a broccoli plant are sold as bunch broccoli or baby broccoli. The stems look like broccolini so unscrupulous types sometimes sell them as broccolini, which is a broccoli-gai lan that is more expensive than either of its parents because it is grown under license.

Best buy: Feel like you’re eating more Brussels sprouts than you used to? Production has doubled since 2009.

In the vegie patch: Get some blue-flowered plants into the garden to attract bees and boost pollination come spring.

What else: 

  • lots of gold kiwifruit from New Zealand, as well as the new red variety, which has a gorgeous sunbust of red flesh at its centre
  • quinces are still good
  • last chance for a pesto before the basil gives up for winter
  • Queensland-grown chokos are cheap this week
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In season

June 28

In now: Dutch plant breeders first crossed purple cabbage with Brussels sprouts to create purple sprouts in the 1940s. Expect to see more of them around this winter.

At its best: Flush with the success of rebranding Chinese gooseberries as kiwifruit, New Zealand fruit farmers mashed ‘tama’, Maori for leader, with ‘amarillo’, Spanish for yellow, to turn the tree tomato into tamarillo, now in peak season.

Best buy: Can’t beat bags of navel oranges, sold as juicing oranges but perfect for eating.

In the vegie patch: Gardeners growing French tarragon should make up another bottle of tarragon vinegar before the herb dies down for the winter.

What else:

  • feeling it’s time for apple pie? Braeburn and golden delicious give the best tart-sweet balance and won’t go to mush in a pie crust.
  • cumquats are available for the jam makers
  • toss cubes of peeled,  steamed kohlrabi in one of the season’s peppery fresh olive oils, such as Cobram Estate’s First Harvest
  • try celeriac remoulade with corned beef and mustard.

 

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In season

June 21

In now: Truffles get better as the weather gets colder, and a couple of good frosts are necessary to build aroma. The early harvests have started in cold areas around the country. Join the hunt with trained dogs at The Truffle Farm, outside Canberra.

At its best: Dutch carrots aren’t just carrots pulled early from their homes, but a variety bred to be mature twice as fast as regular carrots. Look for bunches with fresh-looking leaves.

Best buy: Wombok responds well to cold nights and is especially good now.

In the vegie patch: The shortest day of the year is the traditional time to sow onions.

What else:

  • cold soils make the sweetest parsnips, so the season starts now
  • pretty blushed corella pears are an Australian fruit, bred by the German settler orchardists of the Barossa Valley
  • treat rapini like cavolo nero, briefly blanching before frying up with garlic
  • chervil likes the cool weather
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In season

June 14

In now: The sweetest winter pineapples are the hydrids, which are grown under license and consequently sold with the tops cut off so that buyers can’t regrow the fruit.

At its best: While imperials are our favourite mandarins there’s now a wide choice of sweet citrus. Also in season are nova, daisy and afourer. For a tangier option hunt up tangelos, which are a cross between a mandarin and a grapefruit.

Best buy: Creamy hass avocadoes are plentiful again after a thinly supplied autumn.

In the vegie patch: ‘Clementine’ mandarins, unlike most mandarins, can hang on the tree for months without deteriorating: perfect for home gardeners.

What else:

  • Navel oranges aren’t yet at their sweetest: slice thinly, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon for dessert.
  • buy fresh horseradish to eat within a week as the colour and flavour fade in the fridge.
  • look out for super-pricey and utterly delicious mangosteens from tropical Queensland.
  • fennel is a bargain this week
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