Autumn has become winter and with it comes the colours and flavours of the season, from rosy red apples, to pungent mushrooms. But if you’re still not sure why eating seasonally is better for you and the planet – or how to do it – here’s the low-down.
“Food that isn’t in season has usually travelled a greater distance to get to us,” says Sahra Tohow, the founder of Foragers & Co. “The quick convenience of eating whatever we want and not what the season dictates isn’t great for the planet, our pockets or palate.” Tohow curates seasonal weekly vegetable deliveries to your door and is a vocal advocate of getting to know your greengrocer or supplier to gauge what’s at its best. A passionate supporter of local farmers, she recognises that we don’t all have the time to find out where each vegetable comes from. Instead she suggests familiarising ourselves with what’s in season for informed choices about what we buy. Happily, services such as Foragers & Co. are available with the legwork on provenance done for you. Either way, choosing what’s in season in your region can also have the knock-on effect of helping to identify food that is more local.
“Local, seasonal produce certainly tastes better, but the nutritional value is also affected,” says Tohow. “The shorter time between harvest and plate means the produce can ripen on the plant longer. Locally grown produce is most often picked within a few days of reaching the customer, so it’s often allowed to ripen properly because shipping and transportation times don’t figure so heavily. The environment is also a factor, transport and cool-storage for produce from another hemisphere has a huge environmental impact.”
From taste to price, there are numerous personal benefits of eating seasonally but you’ll likely also be supporting the local economy as well.
“Right now I’m really into apples, pears, rhubarb, young broccoli and I can’t get enough of rainbow chard – such a bright and happy vegetable to eat. If I had to choose one meal using seasonal produce it would be a winter salad with radicchio and roasted grapes, or shaved kohlrabi, apple and fennel."
Tohow also recommends the weekly organic markets across Sydney, including Leichardt’s Orange Grove Markets, Bondi and Marrickville Markets, where you can buy from growers directly, as well as from resellers. One of her favourite stalls is Field to Feast.
Another tip is to head to the abundance of Vietnamese and Chinese produce shops in Marrickville, Ashfield or the markets in Cabramatta. “This is where you’ll get great fresh greens, herbs and unusual fruits. They’re nearly always locally grown and affordable. In Cabramatta you’ll also see home-grown-produce stalls, which is wonderful.”
Finally, Tohow suggests a trip to Flemmington Markets on a Saturday. “It’s got resellers and farmers selling directly to the public. Speak to the people you’re buying from and ask questions. Look for the farmers, there are a few there, and they’re always keen to talk about what they grow.”
Don’t be seduced by convenience. “Stop and think about what you’re buying or eating. Ask where it came from and when it was harvested.”
In season now
Asian greens: Bok Choy
Swiss and Rainbow chard
Without further ado - a recipe that makes the most of bananas (which are in season), Café Sopra’s Banoffee pie:
2 x 395g cans of sweetened condensed milk 180g unsalted butter, chopped 375g digestive biscuits, halved 600ml thickened cream 2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped out 75g icing sugar, sifted 4 bananas 30g dark chocolate, finely grated
Method: Place cans of condensed milk in a large saucepan of water and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours, adding water if necessary to ensure cans remain covered, remove cans and cool in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile melt butter in a small saucepan, and then cool slightly. Using a food processor, crush biscuits to fine crumbs, add the butter and process briefly to combine. Press crumb mixture over the base of a greased 28cm loose based tin then refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the base.
Open cooled cans of condensed milk and spoon caramel evenly over the biscuit base and refrigerate overnight to firm.
To assemble pie: Using an electric mixer whisk cream, vanilla bean seeds and sugar to stiff peaks. Cut bananas into thin slices. Remove pie from tin, loosen base and place on a plate. Spoon or pipe half the whipped cream over the caramel filling, then place bananas in an overlapping circle working from the outside in. Top with the remaining cream and sprinkle with grated chocolate.
Cut into slices with a hot dry knife and serve immediately.
Tip: To stop noise of cans rattling in the saucepan, place a folded tea towel in the base before adding the water.