What’s good at the markets and how to cook with it
This week: the exotic, the familiar and the littleknown. Ancient, subtropical lychees originated in southern China around 1700BC. Chinese goldminers brought them here in the 1870s and commercial production began 100 years later. Now we have the world’s longest season, October to March, from far north Queensland (Cooktown) to northern NSW (Coffs Harbour).
These delicate, sweet fruits, encased in crisp, knobbly pink-red shells, are at farm gates, central markets and locals such as Organic Gold Coast Farmers Market (where they’re organic, and an especially tasty variety).
While pumpkins inhabit every region, local market and many suburban backyards, the season has just begun for soft, moist, sweet-tasting spanner crabs. They inhabit coastal waters from Yeppoon, Queensland, to Nowra, southern NSW and north of Perth, Western Australia, through to October. Commercially, they’re caught wild using dillies (basketlike pots, strictly regulated) and generally sold cooked. If uncooked, buy them live.
Once inexpensive, spanner crabs are costing more as their popularity grows. Gold Coast Fisherman’s Co-op (Wharf 10) sells them; Noosa Fish Providores has them at its factory (Wednesday to Saturday) and at Noosa Farmers Market on Sundays. They’re also at Sydney Fish Market.
On holidays, you could catch your own spanner crabs: see goldcoastbulletin.com.au for the fishing report. To cook humanely (rspca.org.au), refrigerate for a couple of hours or put them in the freezer for 45 minutes; cook in rapidly boiling water (for 400g, 10 minutes from return to boil) and submerge in salted ice water, which sets the meat and enhances flavour. The body and claws yield 25 per cent meat. Blue swimmer crabs, marrons, yabbies, rock lobsters are substitutes.
This week’s chef is an eloquent advocate for Sunshine Coast produce.