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SEA­SON’S GREET­INGS

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Spring has of­fi­cially sprung to­day and it brings with it a world of fab­u­lous new Aus­tralian pro­duce. We look at the bounty of this vi­brant sea­son – from ar­ti­chokes to as­para­gus – and how to make the most of it

GREEN BEANS

Best cooked quickly to pre­serve their vi­brant green hue and pre­vent them from go­ing mushy, green beans are a great source of vi­ta­mins B1, B6, A and E, mag­ne­sium, cal­cium and potas­sium. Choose crisp and firm beans with no soft spots or signs of dis­coloura­tion. They can be kept wrapped in dry pa­per towel in a plas­tic bag in the fridge for up to 10 days.

How to eat them: The fresh­est of beans need lit­tle more than a quick steam­ing, boiling or blanch­ing, some good-qual­ity but­ter or olive oil, sea salt and toasted sliv­ered al­monds or pine nuts. How­ever, dress­ings made with maple syrup, cider vine­gar, di­jon mus­tard, cit­rus juice or honey will add ex­tra spark. Blanched, they’re beau­ti­ful in a salad with tomato and lentils, or goats cheese, wal­nuts and zuc­chini, or, per­haps, pump­kin, or­ange, feta and mint. They team per­fectly with grilled fish, add crunch to home­made sushi and rice pa­per rolls, and pump up the vegie quota in stir-fries, cur­ries and tagines.

PA­PAYA/PAW­PAW

Best in spring and au­tumn, this fruit has two main va­ri­eties in Aus­tralia – red pa­paya (pic­tured) and yel­low paw­paw. The red fea­tures green/yel­low spot­ted skin with dark tan­ger­ine-tinged flesh and is sweet. The yel­low va­ri­ety is less sweet, rounder with pale or­ange skin and bright yel­low flesh. Both are packed with vi­ta­mins C and A, carotenoid­s and fo­late, boost­ing im­mu­nity and skin elas­tic­ity. The fruits are ripe when they yield to gen­tle pres­sure. Store in the fridge and con­sume within two days.

How to eat them: Sim­ply cube the flesh and eat it fresh, or toss into ce­real or muesli with yo­ghurt for break­fast. Poach in wa­ter with sugar, lime juice, cin­na­mon and star anise for a healthy dessert, or try fold­ing mashed and diced pa­paya into whole­meal muffins with co­conut. In sal­ads, they pair well with prawns, rocket, beans, dill and mint. Trans­form them into a salsa with tomato and avo to team with seafood or corn frit­ters, or add un­ripened ver­sions to co­conut cream-based cur­ries.

MUSH­ROOMS

Spring and au­tumn are prime sea­sons for mushies in Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­larly but­tons, cups, field, porta­bella and swiss browns. These are all high in an­tiox­i­dants, low in kilo­joules, and said to be good for boost­ing the im­mune sys­tem, pre­vent­ing can­cer and low­er­ing the risk of gout. Choose firm mush­rooms with a uni­form colour and a slightly shiny sur­face. Store them in a brown pa­per bag on the bot­tom shelf of the fridge for at least a week.

How to eat them: Wipe mush­rooms gen­tly with a damp cloth, us­ing a soft brush to re­move any dirt from the skin, be­fore trim­ming the stem and throw­ing them into ev­ery­thing from sal­ads to risot­tos. Go old-school and stuff mush­rooms with rice or mince mix­tures, skewer them with meat and pop them on the barbie, slice them up for stir-fries, cur­ries, noo­dle dishes and piz­zas, or turn them into a tape­nade for an in­ter­est­ing dip. Pas­tas, pies and pi­lafs love their meati­ness, or try marinating for an an­tipasto plate.

PEAS

Gar­den peas, snow peas and sugar snaps are all in their prime through­out spring. Green peas lose their sweet­ness quickly af­ter pick­ing, so best to cook them as soon as you buy them. Choose small to medium-sized plump peas that aren’t hard or bulging. For sugar snaps and snow peas, buy bright green, firm va­ri­eties and store in a plas­tic bag in the fridge for up to a week, or wash, top and tail, blanch and freeze in air­tight con­tain­ers for up to a year.

How to eat them: They can all be snacked on raw, but are tasti­est when cooked. While stir-fries are the ob­vi­ous choice, try adding them to paella, seafood pasta dishes or with grilled pork with ginger, gar­lic, chilli and soy. Mint, spinach and feta are their ideal mar­riage in sal­ads, though grilled stone fruit and pro­sciutto also works with a yo­ghurt dress­ing, as does chilli and bar­be­cued corn. Snow peas and sugar snaps are par­tic­u­larly great juli­enned with car­rot and wom­bok and turned into a slaw for burgers or steak. Gar­den peas love pancetta or speck as a side for lamb.

AS­PARA­GUS

For­get the Mex­i­can and Peru­vian of­fer­ings, now is the time to get into Aussie as­para­gus. At their best from now un­til Novem­ber, the green, white or pur­ple va­ri­eties have a herba­ceous flavour, are low in kilo­joules, high in fi­bre and packed with vi­ta­mins C and B. Choose firm, bright bunches with well-formed, tightly closed tips, and store in the crisper of your fridge wrapped in damp pa­per towel in­side a plas­tic bag.

How to eat it: Re­move the woody ends and blanch or grill it on the bar­be­cue ready for sal­ads, teamed with salty and sweet ac­com­pa­ni­ments, such as pro­sciutto, feta, haloumi, roasted pump­kin or sweet potato, rock­melon or corn. Risot­tos, quiches and frit­tatas welcome its green good­ness, es­pe­cially paired with the likes of peas, zuc­chini and smoked or pan-fried salmon. Throw spears into stir-fries or pasta dishes, or blend with gar­lic, rocket, ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, parme­san and cashews for a twist on pesto.

 ?? PHO­TOG­RA­PHY // DAVID KELLY ??
PHO­TOG­RA­PHY // DAVID KELLY

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