Greengages – Reine Claude

There are lots of plum varieties around the shops and markets now but worth looking out for are greengages. This plum was developed in France, where it is known as Reine Claude. Prized as a great desert plum, it is widely grown in Western Europe but not so well known here. They are a very sweet eating plum but wait until the skin changes from green to a slight yellow colour for optimal sweetness.

At Last Figs at Reasonable Prices!

Finally, I have spotted figs at the Queen Victoria Market at the reasonable price of $10/kg. While most are the purple variety, which look fabulous, I would actually advise you to seek out the Adriatic “white” variety that are an even light green colour. To my mind they have a much better flavour. Figs are wonderful in both savoury and sweet dishes. Halve figs and serve with cheeses or add to salads, they especially make a great addition to grain salads.  For a really lovely morsel with drinks, make a cut in the side and slip in a tiny piece of butter, wrap with proscuitto and roast until tender and proscuitto crisp. Serve figs marinated and grilled on French toast for a decadent brunch (see recipe tab). If you want to make fig jam then I suggest you buy a box from local growers, for example, from Just Picked in Yan Yean (check availability – late Feb or March fromgrowers near Melbourne).

Summer Apples

heritage apples

Summers apples are making a showing at markets now and lesser known and heritage varieties such as Akane, Abas, Pipins and Gravensteins can be found at some farmers markets. I also spotted Gravensteins at Organics Shed I, Queen Victoria Market ($6/kg). The Gravensteins are a great cooking apple with a sweet yet tart flavour. They retain their shape after cooking which is great for tarts and pies.

More Than Swiss Brown Mushrooms

While summer is a time for tomatoes, lettuces, stone fruit and melons I can’t help but tell you about the lovely exotic mushrooms available from the mushroom co.

This summer why not include a mushrooms salad with fresh herbs or char grilled king mushrooms to accompany your barbequed meats or fish (see recipe tab). Be aware that many of the king mushrooms you see in polystyrene packages in shops are imported from China. The large king mushrooms (pictured) and other wonderful varieties such as Enoki, Nameko, Shimeji, chestnut and black fungi are grown locally at Yarra Glen and are available at various farmers markets around Melbourne.