Spring has arrived in Melbourne, I love any change in seasons with the anticipation of new menus as produce choice shifts with the seasons. Spring is a time of anticipation for any food lover, we leave behind the heavier winter menus and start to see the young spring vegetables and anticipate berries and stone fruit in abundance in the coming weeks.
I really enjoy eating seasonally and trying to buy local, although in a large country as Australia we are quite lucky with the varying climates we can pretty much buy items year round – this fulfills my cravings but for the most part enjoying local produce at its peak, chatting to the farmer, and the anticipation of what is to come for me is part of the enjoyment. I know there is a saying, “you can never get enough of a good thing” but I think you can when it comes to food. I cannot wait to taste apricots when they come in December if I had availability all year round I doubt I would be as excited, using the jam I make each summer and the jars f preserves provides me with enough of the taste to keep me going through winter. That first bite of that luscious ripe fruit come December always tastes absolutely amazing and never disappoints.
Typically Spring weather in Melbourne runs the complete temperature range, we are known for 4 seasons in one day, from sunny 20s to cloudy and rainy and as low of 2 or 3 degrees at night. My menu is just as varied.
Currently, I’m enjoying pumpkin and pine nut risotto on cooler evenings. My Substantial Salads are surfacing, as are fennel and blood orange salad both at their peak at the moment. Of course, lovely lamb roast, potatoes roasted in duck fat, baby carrots, beetroot and beans on the menu for those long Sunday lunches with friends.
Mid week I usually reach for the pasta and am now moving from the richer meat sauces I so love over winter into lighter toppings made with fresh ingredients as they come into season, Artichokes a particular favorite. Our nights in Melbourne can still be rather cool, so I’m using up some of my curries Beef Vindaloo with Flatbread and Chili Con Carne made and stored in the freezer. Spring is a great time to clean out the freezer to make way for spring/summer produce.
It’s still surprising and to a degree saddens me that many people do not understand what is local and what is in season, with the supermarkets stocked with everything year round, I guess it is no surprise. I do challenge you though as I did with a friend a while ago, who hated tomatoes, when I asked when he had last had one it was in winter, my challenge to him was to try one bought from a grower in March, better still would be from someone’s own garden. Farmers market purchase did suffice, he couldn’t believe what he was tasting, and how amazing the flavor and aroma.
Similarly I overheard a conversation at the recent Vegout farmers market a chap was chatting with Jones Potatoes, who was explaining that they would be absent for the next few months and hopefully back in December. The customer was arguing that- he could buy potatoes all year round from the supermarket, as Mr. Jones explained yes potatoes were definitely available year round, Queensland are harvesting right now, but as their farm is based in Victoria, it isn’t a year-round crop. The customer left with a comment mumbling under his breath “that’s what happens when you get a country that refuses to import to satisfy their population’.
This did intrigue me as I don’t want to eat imported potatoes, no fruit or veg is at its peak when it has traveled miles, even within our country, whilst they seem hardy even spuds do bruise. Potatoes for me are a year-round staple, once my current supply run out, I will purchase from a vegetable outlet whilst Jones’s are preparing for their next harvest. But I won’t be buying imported when there is no need as if it is not Victorian there produce from other states.
I’m not hard and fast about buying imported I do buy food goods from abroad, there are some cheeses from France and Italy, pasta, prosciutto, mortadella, salami, balsamic vinegar from Italy – you get the idea. Just not imported fruit and vegetables as an everyday rule, they simply don’t taste at their peak when carted for miles in refrigeration. There is always an exception I am partial to white asparagus from the Netherlands, Damien from Prahran markets will let me know: he will have them on a plane on Tuesday and ready for collection on the same Thursday. When an item is a specialty one and handled with great care, I do make an exception. But it is not my everyday way of buying.
Food is very important part of my everyday, I enjoy thinking about it, planning menus, purchasing, preparing and of course eating. Part of that is knowing where it has come from if possible whom has grown it. For me, that is a connection to our beautiful country and evokes wonderful memories of my parents and my childhood on the orchard. I do think the quality is very important and you won’t get much better than from the people who planted, nurtured, harvested and then sell to you. Food grown or made with love passion definitely tastes better!