Much like Lord Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones, with inevitability, winter is coming to us folk in the southern hemisphere. Or should I say "winter"! In my home town Penticton (Canada), winter included snow, days that didn't get above 0 degrees and gardens that froze solid! I feel so blessed to be living in this beautiful subtropical climate on the Sunshine Coast, where food can be grown fresh year round. That's right, you can grow enough food varieties year round to never go hungry! In our Canadian fall we were busy canning and preserving foods to make sure we had some variety to add in winter meals (other than pumpkin, potato and carrots!).
With this in mind, I thought it would be a great idea to talk about seasonal produce, we often hear about seasonal produce, most commonly when we talk about "mango season" or "stonefruit season". With the advent of large supermarkets and preservation techniques that take away the vitality of foods, we are now afforded the luxury of many foods being now available year round. Is this a good thing? I believe not, for many reasons.
- Many common fruits and vegetables are stored in modified atmosphere environments (e.g. bananas, stone fruit, tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, kiwi fruit and citrus). This means they are picked unripe, and artificially ripened to suit consumers needs (Note: Avocados always ripen off the tree);
- Some staple fruits and vegetables travel long distances to get to us. Here on the Sunshine Coast we cannot grow broccoli during summer, these green champions have to be trucked 1000's of kilometres to get to the shops. Some supermarkets even import from overseas! From as far away as the USA, France, Italy and China! Every year, Australia imports billions of dollars of food every year, crazy considering how plentiful our growing seasons are;
- Nature has an uncanny knack of allowing certain foods to grow when we need them most. Have you thought it interesting that the fruits with the highest levels of Vitamin C are in season right at the break of winter? Or the hardy, easy to store root vegetables (which provide warming foods through winter) are harvested just before winter?
It can be confusing walking into the Fresh Food People and The Prices Are Down to find fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, because they all look so "fresh" and "local"! To make it easy for you, I've created a list of what is season on the Sunshine Coast over the next few months. For our southern friends, fortunately the list is fairly similar, apologies to Northern Hemisphere readers, maybe you can bookmark this for 6 months time?
- Apples (these grow best in the Granite Belt region, near Stanthorpe Queensland, 300 kilometres away);
- Avocadoes (the Mary Valley and the Sunshine Coast hinterland grow some Australia's best Avo's!);
- Bananas (note: these guys can travel a long way from North Queensland);
- Custard Apples (These are in their prime RIGHT NOW, try something different!);
- Dragonfruit (you know those fancy Pitaya Bowls you are getting at local cafes? Yep, that's these amazing fruits and they grow really well here!);
- Blood orange (250 kilometres to the northwest of us is one of the largest citrus growing regions in Australia, the North Burnett);
- Navel orange;
- Nuts (local macadamias are prime RIGHT NOW! Did you know that the Macadamia was first discovered near Bauple, Queensland?);
- Persimmon (the Mary Valley is a major producer of these delicious fruits);
- Pineapple (you bet, we don't have a Big Pineapple here for looks, we are the best Pineapple region in Australia!);
- Asian greens (this also includes your fresh garden greens);
- Brussels sprouts;
- Sweet potato;
Where is the best place to get fresh produce on the Sunshine Coast?
The best place to get fresh, in season produce is as close to the farm as you can get. I recommend the following options, in the order from best to not-as-good:
- Your garden! Grow your own;
- Farmers Markets (I'm going to do a little Farmers Market review blog soon, so you can find out all the hot spots for fresh on the Coast) - make sure you ask the stall holder if they are the farmer, you can generally tell if they are;
- Fresh Box - these guys work with local farmers direct to bring fresh produce to you, home delivered;
- Your local organic grocery store (Organika, Noosa; Good Harvest, Marcoola; Grub Organics, Pacific Paradise; Flannerys, Maroochydore; Renae's Pantry, Palmwoods; Kunara, Forest Glen; Nude Food Organics, Kawana; Natures's Food Market, Currimundi; Maple Street Co-op, Maleny);
- Your local independent grocery store (Jeffers Yandina & Maroochydore are a quality option, they are farmers too!);
- Any of the quadropoly of large stores that stock "fresh" foods!
So, here's a little challenge for you. Do you think you can try and eat your way through winter with only seasonal produce? Keep an eye out for some seasonal meal examples in the coming weeks.