Parks and recreation

Healthy cooking with the seasons November 2012

Spring Fruit of the month: Rockmelon

The beautifully coloured and sweet tasting rockmelon (or cantaloupe) is related to other melons as well as cucumbers, pumpkin and squashes.  They are an excellent source of vitamin C, beta carotene and potassium.  Potassium can help balance excess sodium that comes from salty foods.

When buying, choose a sweet smelling rockmelon with a heavy weight.  Another tip is to look at the part where the stem was attached to the melon.  If it has browned a little, it was picked ripe; if it's green, it wasn't picked ripe.  Store whole at room temperature and prepare by using a large sharp knife to slice in half, then scoop out seeds.  You can then cut the flesh or remove the skin.  After cutting, cover in glad wrap and store in the fridge for up to three days.

Try: getting out the retro melon baller for easy serving, wrapping pieces in prosciutto, eating by itself, puree for a chilled soup, make sorbet, make ice cream and set and serve in the hollowed out shell halves, make fruit salad, add to drinks, make salsa (with red onion, coriander, capsicum and lime juice), have as dessert with yoghurt or on top of breakfast cereal, add to smoothies.

Goes with: smoked chicken, tropical fruits, other melons such as watermelon and honeydew melon, raspberries, grapes, celery, prosciutto or ham, prawns, crab, scallops, calamari, mint, coriander, red onion, limes.

Tip: Make rockmelon ice blocks by cutting pieces and putting on paddle pop sticks to freeze.  Such a warm weather treat!

Spring Vegetable of the month: Zucchini

Zucchini (also known as a courgette) is a type of summer squash that's available in both green and yellow varieties.  It is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of beta carotene and folate.  There is a little preparation involved with zucchini.  Just wash, pat dry and trim off the two ends.

When buying, choose firm zucchini with glossy skin.  Store in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper for up to three days.  As zucchini has high water content, it's best steamed or cooked as quickly as possible.  Instead of slicing zucchini, try presenting it by using a vegetable peeler to peel lengthways into ribbons.

Try: eating raw or adding to salads, halving and grilling as a side dish, pan frying, grating and adding to pasta dishes, make ratalouille (its signature dish with capsicum, eggplant and tomatoes), make soup, make zucchini slice, grate into cakes and muffins, make zucchini bread, dip in eggs and breadcrumbs then lightly fry.

Goes with: any meat, eggplant, capsicum, mint, basil, rosemary, red onion, chilli, Italian food, pasta, eggs, cheeses (such as parmesan, ricotta and feta), garlic lemon, tomatoes, butter, olive oil and chocolate.

Tip: Be careful not to over cook zucchini or it will become to soft and you will lose the text

Spring Herb of the month: Coriander

Coriander is also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley and has a very pungent lemon ginger aroma.  It contains Vitamins A and K as well as Vitamins B, C and E.  Coriander is used in a variety of Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Latin American Cuisines.  The best part about coriander is that the entire plant can be used; the roots, stems, leaves and seeds. The roots have a strong taste whereas the seeds are mild and slightly sweet.  To prepare, wash the roots, stems and leaves in cold water to remove any dirt or grit.

Coriander is usually sold all year round but is great in spring.  Look for fresh bunches with bright green leaves with firm stems and roots.  To store, place in a glass (stems down) with a little water and cover loosely with a plastic bag.  Or wrap with damp paper towel and store in a sealed plastic bag.  Keep in the fridge for up to five days.  The best way to enjoy fresh coriander is to grow your own!

Try:  make coriander pesto, add to a salsa, sprinkle your salads, flavour oil, add to curries, make curry pastes, add to marinades, add to stir fries, add to chutneys and pickles, add to guacamole, finely dicing the roots to cook in dishes such as chilli con carne, adding to soups.

Goes with: any meat, fish, most vegetables, garlic, chilli, carrot, basil, mint, avocado, mushrooms, coconut, couscous, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, prawns, scallops and mussels, curries, rice.

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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