The exciting announcement this week is the debut of our exciting $35 veggie box! The veggie box is a seasonal box of locally grown chemical free veggies. We put together a great mix of produce that should provide hearty meals for you and your family throughout the week. Each week there’ll be some favourite staples such as pumpkin and carrots, lots of yummy stuff like broccoli, capsicum and eggplant and one cooking green. We’ll be putting at least ten different things in each time, giving you a great range of food to get creative with.
Dr Seuss Roots – Purple Carrots
Medium and Large box customers might be wondering that those psychedelic roots are, which look they’ve been plucked out of a Dr Seuss book. Fear not, they’re purple carrots, and they’re wonderful! Ok, so they’re a bit knobbly and freakish but I feel that adds to their charm. Their taste will remind you what carrot is supposed to taste like – sweet, spicy and crisp! Some of you may remember these colourful critters from boxes last year but they’ve been out of the picture all summer. Rita just brought them back online again, as they are now a decent size for harvesting. Oh, it’s also worth noting that they’re actually the original carrot variety – yes, carrots didn’t used to be orange. They’re native to the area of modern-day Iran and wild varieties come in purple and yellow. Believe it or not, the Dutch, in a frenzy of culinary patriotism, bred and popularised orange carrots sometime in the 16th century, orange being their national colour. Purple carrots are in fact an old heritage variety.
The nutrients in purple carrots are different from the nutrients found in orange carrots, but just as important to your body. The purple pigment found in purple carrots is the same pigment you would find in blueberries, or red grapes. These pigments are powerful antioxidants that can help slow down the damage our environment does to our bodies.
My recommendation for purple carrots is to enjoy them raw. There’s no need to peel them, just give them a scrub under the tap. Then thinly slice or grate them as a salad ingredient. If you do feel like something hot then your best bet is a stir-fry as this will preserve their crispness. I prefer cutting them into batons if I’m doing this. Take care to heat the pan up really high before adding your veggies and flash cook everything for no more than three minutes.
Bananas have slowed
Guess what – bananas don’t like the cold – hardly surprising as they’re a tropical fruit. Tom’s bananas are grown up at Coffs harbour. Coffs is a tad warmer than Sydney but not by much. Tom has been warning me that the banana supply is dwindling now that winter is in full swing. Today I finally got a text from him saying that we’ll have to drop to fortnightly deliveries. Bananas grow much slower in the cold. The good news is that they don’t stop growing entirely, so expect to get them every two weeks. Next week (week 26, starting Monday 25th June) however will be the first in a long time without any bananas.
While we’re on the subject, you might have noticed that the bananas recently don’t have that same bright yellow glow to them when ripe, as they do in summer. Bananas still ripen up fine in this colder weather, it just takes them a couple more days to do so and they don’t always get that same vibrant look to them.
Tom transports bananas down to us in Sydney when they are still bright green. This helps minimise bruising in transit and ensures that we can control ripening specifically to our needs. Tom sends all our bananas to Paul, our banana gaser out at Flemington. Bananas get gassed with Ethylene, which is a naturally occurring compound that bananas actually produce themselves. Ethylene is the gas responsible for ripening all fruit. You may have noticed that other fruit in your fruit bowl ripens faster if you put bananas next to it. Commercial gasing with Ethylene is the same thing – it simply speeds up the ripening process. Paul receives green bananas from Tom and ripens them rapidly to about three quarters ripe, over a period of three days. This amount of ripeness when we receive them is worked out so that the bananas will be just right for eating by about Friday on the week that you receive them. However, depending upon where you keep them, they may do the final quarter of their ripening faster or slowly.
A cursory glance through the internet turns up blogs that worry about banana gassing. You really shouldn’t – there are no nasty chemicals involved here. Basically, we need to face facts that we live in a temperate climate in Sydney, where you simply cant grow bananas on a commercial scale. If you were to receive Tom’s bananas when they’re fully green, you’d never see a yellow banana you can eat, as the cold here will not ripen them. ‘Gassing’ might sound ‘unnatural’, but really it’s fine. Ethylene is entirely natural and there are no measurable negative effects to the fruit. It definitely doesn’t get gassed with all the nasty pesticide stuff that conventional bananas get covered in!
When you get them home, definitely don’t keep them in the fridge by the way. Try the window-sill in a sunny spot for best results. If you get to the weekend and they still have a greenish tinge then they’re almost certainly good to eat – They need warmth and sun if you want them bright yellow but they’ll still ripen up fine for eating if they don’t have those things.
A note on the onions
A few people have shown concern about the black mould that can be found under the first layer of skin on our onions. Seeking an answer on this I called up Neil Wiseman, our onion farmer. The mould is called Aspergillus and originates in the soil. Neil is the only organic onion grower I know of in NSW, most being from down in Tassie. The fact is, Tassie is a much better climate for onion growing and they dont get Aspergillus issues down there. Neil says that at this time of year, NSW onions cant help but have a bit of mould happening on them. He does his best to grade them but some mould is unavoidable. As a result, the big supermarkets wont buy off him, and go to Tassie farmers instead. This presented us with a conundrum at Food Connect. We dont buy our food interstate as we value local. Also, we want to directly support local farmers, particularly those experiencing hard times. So the big question was, is Aspergillus a problem? Well, it makes for an ugly looking onion, but Neil assures us that there are no issues with the mould if you wash it off. We wanted to double check so we looked into it ourselves. There does not appear to be any major concerns but what we recommend is that if you get any onion with mould, simply remove the entire outer layer and discard it. Also, cook the onion too. The only other choice here was to fore go any onions at all until about November. After much consideration we decided to continue supporting Neil and providing you all with locally grown onions. We’re sorry that they’re not perfect looking but that’s the way of things sometimes if you want to eat local produce.