Parks and recreation

Healthy cooking with the seasons for Autumn

Each month we bring you our fruit, vegetable and herb of the month!  Learn all about uses, tips and complimentary foods...


Autumn Fruit of the month: Avocado

Avocados are an extremely nutritious fruit that are often mistaken as a vegetable.  They contain a complex blend of lipids, phytochemicals, plenty of vitamins (such as A, C, B6, E and D), folate, omegas and antioxidants.  Avocados contain mono-unsaturated fats (good fats) that have been found to increase nutrient absorption.  There are over seventy varieties of avocados in Australia, the most common being Hass, Shepard, Reed and Wurtz.

When buying, choose avocados that are firm to the touch with unblemished skin.  You can tell if an avocado is ripe if you press the top (the stem end) and it gives slightly.  To remove the seed, halve the avocado then lightly hit the seed with a sharp knife so it is safely connected.  By gently twisting the avocado half, the seed will loosen and can be removed.  You can either squeeze the avocado out of the flesh or use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.

Try: eat on its own with some salt, pepper and lemon juice, make guacamole, add to a salad, put on rolls and sandwiches, make a sauce, mash on toast, add to pasta, make a chilled soup, add to any Mexican food such as burritos or fajitas, use as a creamy base for desserts such as chocolate mousse and ice-cream.

Goes with:  bacon, chicken, beef, seafood, tomatoes, chillies, lemons, limes, most cheeses such as feta and cheddar, rice, eggs, corn, red onion, pulses, pasta, nuts such as macadamias and pine nuts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mango, paw paw, coriander, mint.

Tip: To speed up the ripening process, place an avocado in a paper bag with a banana.  Keep it on your kitchen bench and out of direct sunlight.  Also check out Mona's recipes using avocados on the healthy eating recipe page of the website.


Autumn Vegetable of the month: Pumpkin

Although the much loved pumpkin is technically a fruit, it is often described as a vegetable.  It can be used in both savoury and sweet cooking and is best eaten in Autumn and Winter.  Pumpkin is rich is vital antioxidants, fibre and vitamins such as A, C and E.  The skin of a pumpkin can vary in colour depending on the variety with the most common being Kent (also known as Jap), Butternut and of course, the Queensland Blue.  Pumpkins are also related to the squash, cucumber, rockmelon and zucchini.

When buying, try to aim for the whole pumpkin instead of buying it in sections.  Avoid any blemishes on the skin and give it a tap to listen for woody sound.  A whole pumpkin can store for up to two months at room temperature (in a cool, dark place).  If you buy in sections, choose pumpkin with bright orange flesh and store in the refrigerator (in glad wrap) for up to seven days.  Why not try growing your own?  Pumpkins are very easy to grow, in fact, they can take over your garden if you're not careful?  When preparing, place on a sturdy cutting board and use a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler to remove the skin then cut to your preference.

Try: roast for a side dish, add roasted pumpkin to pizzas, make soup, make pumpkin pies, use as a substitute for carrot in cakes and muffins, make pumpkin scones, roast and serve cold in salads, puree to create mash, roast the seeds (see below), roast pieces and add to a risotto or pasta, making gnocchi, add to a curry.

Goes with: most meats, prawns, spinach, red onion, grains such as quinoa and couscous, rice, pasta, olive oil, butter, sage, basil, parsley, cheese such as feta, goats cheese and mascarpone, chickpeas, cinnamon, green beans and peas, Moroccan spices, honey, garlic.

Tip:  Don't throw out your pumpkin seeds (pepitas)! Remove the pulp, rinse them well and spread them on baking paper and leave them overnight.  When they are dry, drizzle with olive oil (so they are well coated), season with salt and put them in the oven at 250 degrees for approximately 1 hour until they are golden brown.  Store in the an air tight container.


Autumn herb of the month: Marjoram

Marjoram (also known as sweet marjoram or knotted marjoramis) is a member of the mint family and is often confused with oregano.  You can use marjoram as a replacement for oregano or thyme however it is slightly sweeter. It has a citrus like taste and aroma, so a little bit can go a long way.  Marjoram is rich in zinc, vitamin C and D.  It's most commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Cuisine.

When buying, choose firm bunches without discoloured leaves.  Once again, the freshest herbs are the ones you grow yourself! Marjoram grows easily and it can even be grown inside if you keep it in a sunny position.  It can be stored in snap lock bag for around five days in the refrigerator.  The leaves rarely need to be chopped as they are small and the stem is not used.

Try: adding to pasta and pizzas sauces, add to minestrone and soups, making herbal tea, add to omlettes, infusing springs of marjoram in white wine vinegar, add to salads.

Goes with: tomato based sauces for pizza and pasta, meats such as lamb and pork, poultry, fish, vegetables, legumes, garlic, pasta, butter, olive oil, polenta, ricotta cheese, tomatoes, sumac, red onion.

Tip:  Add marjoram in the final ten minutes of cooking to preserve the flavour.

If you are after more information on healthy eating check out The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.  The guide includes information about the type of foods and quantities you need each day to ensure good health and wellbeing.

Email newsletter

Sign up to receive regular updates and find out what's happening in our parks