Shop online for fresh food? Not me. I like using all 5 senses when buying fresh food. I need to see, feel, smell, taste and hear (yes, hear) my fruit and vegetables.
Below: That’s me going head to head with some produce.
If I were my own boss, I’d sack myself for being so fickle. For shanghai-ing the scheduled plan to post a freshly written restaurant review on a local Shanghainese gem.
Instead, you’re now reading about winter bargains from what I consider the best farmers market in Sydney.
On Saturday, I returned from Paddy’s Markets Flemington feeling ebullient. Sydney’s 7th day of incessant rain didn’t dampen (all pun intended) my mood.
Speaking of rain, have you noticed that most shops stock an abundance of designs of rain boots for women and children, but not for men?
M.O.T.H. (Man Of The House) finally found a suitable pair of wellington boots on Saturday, so we were all set to brave the wet (ahaha, more pun intended) market.
Male readers in the same fix may be interested to know the Bata brand rubber boots were great value at A$28.95 from Burwood Disposals.
Below: Our family of wellies.
What winter of discontent?
I was astounded by the large range of fruit and veg at the market, with some exotica too.
You see, some days in winter, all I see are apples, oranges and cabbages for sale. (Not that there’s anything wrong with them, as Seinfeld would say.)
Somewhere between refrigerating my 17th apple and wondering whether I’d ever use up all the beetroot leaves, I decided I just MUST tell you about these modestly priced and sometimes curious foods. And I MUST do it today, so that Australian readers can look out for these seasonal items too.
With the dawn of the new financial year in Australia, I’ve presented my purchases below to appeal to accountants everywhere.
5 things you can buy for $1
#1: A big bunch of celery in rude health
◊ Shop like a pro: Ditch flaccid ones with a blackened bottom and yellow leaves. My $1 celery sported turgid stems, bright green leaves and a pale-coloured base.
◊ Hot tips: Can’t stand eating bitter celery leaves? Sever them, tie in a bunch with cotton thread, and add it to your soup stock for a flavour punch. Then fish it out and feed it to your garden.
#2: 3 avocadoes ($2/kg)
◊ Shop like a pro: Look for smooth skin with few eyes, so it’ll be easier to peel. Check that the ends are hard and not mouldy or wrinkled.
◊ Hot tips: Grate raw sweet potato into salads, for a mild-flavoured crunch. Or bake a batch of Not Quite Gwyneth Sweet Potato Muffins.
#4: 4 passionfruit ($4/kg, expect to pay $6/kg or more elsewhere)
◊ Hot tip: For a quick and healthy snack, cut a small red papaya in half, remove papaya seeds, and spoon in passionfruit seeds. The tart passionfruit flavour pairs exceedingly well with papaya. This is a twist on the Southeast Asian habit of squeezing lime over papaya to amplify the papaya’s sweetness.
#5: 1kg of beurre bosc pears◊ Shop like a pro: Look for smooth skin at the base of the stalk. Wrinkled skin means the pear isn’t fresh. Carefully check the skin for dark brown spots, cuts or bruises. Especially in pears, these quickly go rotten, leaving a bad taste if not excised with a generous buffer.
◊ Hot tips: These pears are sweet and pleasantly juicy. Not messily juicy like ripe Packham pears can be. They hold their shape well and are ideal for poaching.
Feeling rich? 5 things you can buy for $3
#1: A watermelon
This one is 5kg. I could’ve chosen a bigger one, as they were all the same price. But this one passed the selection test (read on to find out).
The brussels sprout plant looks like a vegetable spaceship trying to take off. Really! Check out this image link.
Don’t punch me when I tell you that my kids relish eating brussels sprouts. Because I’m now confessing that the only time they get to eat bacon is when it’s fried with brussels sprouts.
Toss 500g halved brussels sprouts with 2 pips chopped garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and some pepper. Bake at 190°C (375°F) for about 30 minutes, turning once or twice. Stop cooking when brussels sprouts are browned; try not to overcook them to a mush. You’ll want to snack on them like chips…except they’re brussels sprouts!!
#3: 1 kg red papayas
Readers in Asia will scoff at this, because 70¢ will get you one of those large, long, sweet, red papayas. And then there are the ridiculously sweet delights from Fiji, the stuff of my happy papaya memories.
But in Sydney, papaya prices can get up to $7/kg (at which point I turn to oranges).
◊ Talk like a pro: Australian red papayas have mottled skin and sweet, juicy, dark orange flesh. I favour the small male papayas which have a compact, longish shape, with the seeds packed like sardines. The females are rounder, with a void inside.
◊ Hot tip: See passionfruit entry above.
#4: ½ kg Swiss brown mushrooms for $2.50
You know the world is upside down when:
♠ a deposed prime minister deposes the prime minister who deposed him, and
♠ Swiss brown mushrooms (pictured left, $5/kg, normally ≥$10/kg) are cheaper than regular mushrooms (pictured right, $6/kg).
◊ Hot tips: Swiss browns have a more intense flavour than button mushrooms. Roast them whole with olive oil, dried herbs, chilli powder (Turkish works well), salt and pepper. Or quarter them and fry in a little oil, grated ginger and soy sauce, slipping in a little butter at the final stage.
#5: 400g bag of fresh salad leaf mix
That’s $7.50/kg of salad leaves. Rock bottom! Even my local trusty fruit barn charges more than double that, not to mention the supermarkets.
These leaves will go down a treat with red capsicum, avocado, cherry tomatoes ($2 for 3 punnets!) and my lazy-way-out instant Japanese yuzu dressing. A healthy salad in an instant.
You can find the zingy, citrus yuzu dressing in some Asian grocery stores.
Can you hear your fruit?
Remember how I said something at the start about hearing my fruit? It’s my secret tip. For certain fruit, listening to the sound it makes can help you choose a good one.
As kids, we used to flick apples with our middle finger to test for a crunchy one.
√√ High tone = Crunchy
×× Low, dull tone = Floury
1. Flick gently, otherwise you’ll bruise the apple.
2. Nowadays I don’t flick apples so much, since I get to try before I buy at Paddy’s Markets at Flemington.
The secret sound
Here is a < 30sec video on listening to the sound of another fruit. Can you identify the fruit within the first 7s?
To avoid reader fatigue, this blog post is but Part 1. Part 2 reveals 5 incredible $2 deals from the market, 5 more deals for $10 big spenders, and a tip to keep your veggies from rotting. I’ve posted Part 2 before the weekend, so that savvy Australian readers can look out for seasonal bargains when grocery shopping on the weekend.
Bargain!! A$105 for quality fruit for my family…for 1 month! This one is on summer fruit and vegetables.
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