Parks and recreation

Healthy cooking with the seasons September 2012

Spring Fruit of the month: Strawberries

Strawberries are the only fruit with the seeds on the outside.  They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and high in antioxidants.  Choose brightly coloured, dry, firm, shiny berries that still have fresh looking green caps attached.  Avoid soft, dull looking or shriveled berries.  As strawberries do not ripen after being picked, avoid berries that are partly white or otherwise unripe.

Store strawberries (ideally in a single layer on paper towel) in a moisture proof container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  To wash strawberries, place in a large colander and rinse gently with cool water.  Lay strawberries in a single layer on a paper towel and pat dry.

Buy strawberries in season and freeze.  Hull them, lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until they're solid.  Then transfer them to a re-sealable plastic storage bag and keep frozen until ready to sue.  Frozen strawberries will keep up to six months.

  • Try:  eating them on their own, serve with pancakes, make strawberry jam, make Strawberry Fool by mashing strawberries with some whipped cream and serving in glasses, adding to a fruit salad, baking them in pies or muffins, make a Summer Berry Pudding, add to smoothies, make strawberry juice, add to savoury salads.
  • Goes with: mint, chocolate, pepper, apple, pear, almonds, mascarpone cheese, ricotta, creme fraiche, rhubarb, tropical  fruits, cream, yoghurt, sour cream, brown sugar, other berries, short bread, meringue, on top of breakfast muesli, honey.
  • Tip: Drizzle strawberries with a good-quality balsamic vinegar for an amazing flavour! 

Vegetable of the month: Asparagus

Asparagus is a vegetable often associated with Spring; the season when it's at it's best.  Asparagus is high in folic acid, vitamin C and B.  There is minimal preparation required, just remove the tough and stringy ends.   This can be done easily by holding one end in each hand and snapping off the bottom.  The spear will naturally determine where the good part begins and ends.  Or you can just trim off the bottom 5cm or so with a knife.

When buying, try and select asparagus that is loose and not in small bunches as sometimes the bands holding them together can cause bruising or breakage.  The tips should be tightly furled and fresh looking with the stalks fresh and straight.  Store them in a crisper in the fridge, they keep well for 2-3 days.  Asparagus is quick and easy to cook.  You can throw a few spears on the barbecue, steam or blanch for a few minutes.

  • Try:  adding to creamy pasta sauce, cold or warm salads, serve with dips, include them in an antipasto platter, put in quiches, soups, tarts, terrines, risottos, as a side dish with crumbled goats cheese and toasted pine nuts.
  • Goes with: egg, butter, hollandaise sauce, olive oil, grilled capsicum, onion, sweet potato, almonds, lemon and lime juice, chicken, beef, salmon, artichokes, prosciutto, goats cheese, ham, ricotta cheese, tarragon (herb), parmesan, bacon, rice.

Herb of the month: Mint

Mint is a herb that really thrives in Spring.  There are many types of mint such as peppermint and spearmint.  It's rich in Vitamins A and C and also contains small amounts of Vitamin B2.  Just give the leaves a wash and chop or tear into dishes.

Mint grows easily, but if buying, choose leaves without discolouration.  Store mine in a container of water (stems down) with a plastic bag loosely covering the top.  Ideally change the water every two days and the mint should stay fresh for up to a week.

  • Try: add chopped mint to sauces (for red meat), salad dressings, using as a garnish, add to cool summer drinks, with fruit desserts, add to cold soups, to flavour cakes and biscuits, marinades, make tabouleh, make tea from dried leaves.
  • Goes with: roast lamb, peas, beans, new potatoes, lemon, tomatoes, chickpeas, couscous rice, red onion, tropical fruits such as pineapple, watermelon, strawberries, natural yoghurt, zucchini, cucumber and of course.. chocolate. 
  • Tip: Make a yoghurt dressing with chopped mint leaves, natural yoghurt, garlic and salt and pepper. 

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.

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