The fireworks may have passed, but summer fruit is still splashing colour on to grocery shelves.
“Your top two is definitely your peaches and nectarines. They’re right at the peak of the season,” says Luke Boulus, director at Westridge Fruit Market in Toowoomba. “The quality is really good, the price is really reasonable.”
In supermarkets, yellow and white flesh nectarines and peaches are between $3.90 and $4.50 a kilo and will likely come down further in price. Roast your peaches with vanilla, honey and thyme for a sweet and simple dessert, or make Thomasina Miers’ raspberry and nectarine sourdough pudding.
Other stone fruits are also looking solid. Plums are widely available (about $6 a kilo), so try Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s plum and frangipane tart, and you should get in quick to make Nigel Slater’s apricot crumble slice as apricot season is ending soon.
With many growing regions in New South Wales and Victoria suffering at the hands of the rain before Christmas, Tasmanian cherries are the best quality. But director of Red Rich Fruits Matt Palise says “they are a little bit expensive because of the location” at between $15 and $20 a kilo.
Mangoes make a comeback
“In January, you’re going to see the most affordable mangoes of all season so far,” says Palise. Kensington Prides, which were scarce and expensive last month, along with all other varieties, are expected to be in better supply and about $2.50 to $3 each in coming weeks.
The owner of Rusty Grocer in Sydney, Russell Clarke, praises bananas, an unsung hero of summer fruit salads and smoothies. “Bananas are Mr Consistency,” he says.
Cavendish bananas are between $3 and $4 a kilo in supermarkets, and are expected to remain stable if the weather does not deteriorate.
Berries – increasingly good value year round – remain a safe bet for between $2 and $4 a punnet, and melons are also rolling in. Very sweet watermelons are about $2.50 a kilo, with a drop in price likely, and rock melons are about $4.50 each in supermarkets.
Between $1 and $2 each in supermarkets, avocados are also in their prime. Palise says you “can’t smash enough”.
Pay tribute to Bill Granger, godfather of avocado on toast and make some for breakfast, adding a dressing of lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, topped with chilli.
Greek salads are the best value
A wet Australian summer is proving a challenge for greens. Both the delicate salad leaves such as the baby spinach, rocket and watercress, as well as the hardier bunches such as silverbeet, kale, broccoli and cauliflower have all suffered in recent weeks.
“These storms and erratic weather through northern NSW and Queensland, that’s where most of the green leafy lines are coming from,” Palise says. “What comes through the supply chain will be good quality but it will just be a lot less than normal.”
Boulus says cos lettuce is “almost unprocurable” and iceberg lettuce, while still available at about $4 a head, has the potential to rise in price if wild weather continues.
Prices for alternative staples such as cabbage – now about $4 for half or $6.50 for a whole in supermarkets – have also risen.
With increased demand and not enough supply, green beans are rising in price (currently about $10 a kilo in supermarkets) and snow peas are sitting at about $28 a kilo.
Instead of the delicate greens, Boulus suggests buying “boring” staples: pumpkin (both jap and butternut), brushed potatoes and onions.
Roasted veg can also be adapted for summer, or you can try Anna Jones’ inventive white miso potato salad, though the accompanying asparagus is now imported, so has risen in price.
Palise, meanwhile, says Greek salad ingredients are still great value, and recommends sticking with cucumbers (Continentals are about $1.90 each, and Lebanese are just under $1), capsicums (red and green capsicums are cheapest at about $6.90) and tomatoes in salads.
All tomato varieties are available, with truss tomatoes cheapest at about $3.90 a kilo. Try Nigel Slater’s roast tomatoes, butter beans and gochujang, promising a marriage of spice and sweetness, if you are prepared to be patient roasting the tomatoes and slow cooking the onions.
One thing Clarke always tries to put in his fruit and veg boxes are large zucchinis. They are great for feeding the family and often overlooked by supermarkets and restaurants. At just over $1 each or about $6.50 a kilo in supermarkets, Clarke recommends making zucchinis stuffed with bolognese for the kids, or you can try Ottolenghi’s harrisa and yoghurt version.
Passion fruit is still unlikely to come down in price post-pavlova season and citrus is in short supply. Lemons are about $10 a kilo, so limes are a better alternative, particularly for the aforementioned zesty potatoes.
Navel oranges are now imported from the US, so you’re better off looking for Australian Valencia oranges (which can be found for about $4.99 a kilo).
Pawpaw (to become cheaper in a few weeks)