What's in season - June 12 round-up

Passionfruit

It may be the taste of summer, but for cooks who don't have their own vine to pick, the best season for passionfruit is winter. That's because most of the Australian harvest - which is the world's largest - occurs in Queensland. Passionfruit grows year-round in the balmy northern climate but conditions particularly favour winter. There are a number of different varieties grown but of the black-skinned passionfruit, the tastiest is misty gem, which has the perfect blend of tartness and sweetness. Also good are the panamas, which are large fruits with speckled purple skin. They are juicier than misty gems and taste less intense. When choosing passionfruit, look for fruits that are heavy for their size, which indicates plenty of juice.

As they age, the skin wrinkles, which is a sign of dehydration and reduced juiciness. Eat them before this happens.

Ocean king prawns

Australia's ocean king prawns are the long-distance runners of the maritime world. Prawns tagged by researchers and released at Lakes Entrance in Victoria were fished from the ocean off Lady Elliott Island in the Great Barrier Reef, some 1400 kilometres away. The prawns spent 400 days on their northern swim against the currents, with the females leading and the males chasing them up the coast. Not all prawns caught in the deep waters of the Coral Sea have swum so far from their river-mouth origins, yet they all share a mighty size. The Coral Sea prawns are big; the largest are as long as a hand, and even the smallest are more than a couple of bites. The Australian Ocean King Prawn Company sends prawning boats to the Coral Sea from Hervey Bay through the season, which runs from late February until early August.

They fish for five weeks at a time, cooking then freezing most prawns on board, and freezing some still green. The season is at its peak now, in early winter. You can find extra-large ocean king prawns at Poulos Bros, the Sydney Fish Market and leading fish shops.

Broccoflower

Broccoflower

The vibrant lime green of this vegetable suggests the kind of food colourings that parents try to keep away from their children. Yet it's the natural result of crossing broccoli and cauliflower. Broccoflower's head has a mild flavour and is less bitter than broccoli. Unlike its parents, it is not available year-round. It's a winter specialty and will be in season until the weather warms in mid-November.

WAYS WITH BROCCOFLOWER

Make a simple, creamy soup by frying a sliced leek in a little butter and olive oil until soft. Add the cut florets of a broccoflower, stir, then add a cup of chicken stock and just enough water to cover the vegetables. Cook until tender, then whizz smooth with a stick blender. Season and top with toasted slivered almonds, deep-fried leek or a dollop of goat's curd.

WHAT TO BUY

Beetroot Choose firm bulbs.

Broccoli Good prices on local produce.

Brussels sprouts Keep well in the crisper.

Cabbages Savoy, drumhead and red are all good.

Custard apples Store at room temperature.

Grapefruit White and ruby available.

Jerusalem artichokes Scrub well before using.

Mushrooms Wild pines available to add to the wide variety of cultivated types.

Okra Choose young, tender pods.

Oranges Navels from Queensland, South Australia and NSW.

Persimmon Sydney growers harvesting their crop.

Pumpkins Local harvest is nearly finished; Queensland starts soon.

Quinces Celebrate the short season.

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The story What's in season - June 12 round-up first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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