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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Maddie Thomas

Australia’s best-value fruit and veg for November: ‘Mangoes – they’re in’

Closeup photograph of a pile of mangoes
The Queensland mango season starts in November, with lower prices on the way. Photograph: Jena Ardell/Getty Images

As the countdown to Christmas begins, you might see glimpses of cherries and stone fruit on shelves. But for now mangoes are the summer fruit you can rely on.

“Mangoes – they’re in. You’ll start getting the Queensland season soon,” says Sam Cessario, co-owner at Sydney’s Figtree Greengrocer.

“For the top quality, you’ve still got to pay, but you can get some for $2 or $3 each.”

With Northern Territory mangoes already finishing up, the Queensland season is about to start, bringing with it lower prices in a week or two.

Kensington pride and calypso varieties are in supermarkets for $2.50 or $3 each. Beyond enjoying them as they are, they work beautifully in Ravneet Gill’s little mango pots or Nigel Slater’s mango yoghurt fool – both are low-effort recipes that yield silky-smooth rewards.

Niger Slater’s mango yoghurt fool, a dessert made with mangoes, limes and yoghurt
Fools rush in: Niger Slater’s mango yoghurt fool needs only ripe mangoes, limes and yoghurt. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Although kensington prides are popular, Graham Gee, senior buyer at Melbourne’s The Happy Apple, says red-blushed R2E2 mangos should not be overlooked. Mango thrillseekers, meanwhile, should look out for the maha chanok. Known for its elongated shape and intense sweetness, the hybrid variety was developed in Thailand but is increasing in popularity in Australia. Both R2E2s and maha chanoks can be found for about $3.50 each in supermarkets.

Bargain blueberries, reasonable raspberries

There’s a changing of the citrus guard this season. Mandarins have almost finished and navel oranges are on their way out, but valencia season is imminent.

While you wait, it’s best to stick to berries this November, with blueberries the pick of the crop.

“Local strawberries and blueberries from New South Wales, in a couple of weeks they should be really cheap,” says Mark Narduzzo at Pino’s Fine Produce in Melbourne.

“If you’re looking for the premium jumbo varieties … they’re about $3 to $6 a punnet.”

Raspberries will also come down in price as the Tasmanian season starts. In supermarkets you can find them for about $4.50 a punnet, while punnets of blackberries are about $3.50.

Tamal Ray’s berry mousse tart
The taste of summer with every bite: Tamal Ray’s berry mousse tart. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/The Guardian. Food styling: Aya Nishimura

Put blueberry pancakes and grappa-macerated strawberries on your to-do list but, for a maximalist celebration of the season, look no further than Tamal Ray’s berry mousse tart which calls for 400-plus grams (around two to three punnets) of mixed berries.

And there’s a rosy outlook for cherries in December.

“They reckon we’re going to get a good season. Cherries don’t like the rain – they need a little bit of rain – but they like dry weather,” Cessario says.

As for stone fruits, they’re on their way, with supply to increase and prices expected to come down in a week or two.

Jump for joy, spring for greens

This month grocers are celebrating an abundance of fresh, affordable vegetables. The weather remains stable; so too the prices of spring greens. In particular, Asian greens are in their prime.

“Springtime is when they are in full season,” Narduzzo says. “Bok choy and Chinese broccoli [gai lan] are all about $2 a bunch.”

Nigel Slater’s one-tray chicken wings and bok choy
A wing and a prayer: Nigel Slater’s one-tray chicken wings and bok choy. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Simply wash and steam the greens with a touch of soy for an easy side dish to fish or chicken. Young gai lan are the stalks of choice in Uyen Luu’s bánh canh thịt heo, a Vietnamese pork noodle soup, made here with udon; while Nigel Slater’s one-tray wonder combines chicken wings and bok choy with the flavours of a south-east Asian curry. Yotam Ottolenghi’s garlicky greens, meanwhile, turbocharges baby bok choy and asparagus with nine cloves of garlic, plus a dressing of tahini, soy sauce and maple syrup.

Alongside Asian greens, salad staples also remain cheap. Iceberg lettuce is about $2.50 a head in supermarkets and makes the ideal wrapper for this chicken slaw (use sugarloaf cabbage in place of hispi cabbage), laced with peanut sauce.

“There’s plenty of great lettuce heads available,” Gee says. “Look for fresh, vibrant leaves, and pick it up. It should feel like it has a decent weight.”

Jane Baxter’s french and runner bean fattoush
In pod we trust: Jane Baxter’s french and runner bean fattoush. Photograph: Matthew Hague/The Guardian. Food styling: Oliver Rowe. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Lucy Cottle

Leafy greens, like spinach, are also in good supply; as are snowpeas (about $16 a kilo) and green beans (about $5.50 a kilo). Alice Zaslavsky’s garlicky green beans with cherry tomatoes is a go-to hot vegetable side (and trimming and snapping the beans is an excellent interactive cooking activity for kids); but if you have salad on your mind, it’s hard to go past Jane Baxter’s fattoush-like salad with tender beans, a creamy tahini-yoghurt dressing, and fresh cucumber and mint.

Mint and other soft green herbs are also thriving in the drier conditions, and are priced at $2 to $3 a bunch.

But the brassica bubble has burst. While cauliflower remains affordable at about $3.50 a head in supermarkets, after months of extremely low prices broccoli is now up to $6 a kilo.

Instead, stick to spring’s hot tip – asparagus – which remains cheap at about $1.50 a bunch in supermarkets. Simply blanch or steam the spears, and serve with miso mayonnaise or mint butter.

In tomatoes we truss

Narduzzo says tomatoes are “exceptionally good now”.

With the South Australian season in full swing, and the Victorian season starting this month, the time is right, he says, for “those who appreciate a proper tomato”.

For a premium pick, Narduzzo recommends the heirloom and oxheart varieties which are between $10 and $16 a kilo; or you can find truss tomatoes on special in supermarkets for about $3.90 a kilo. Find 500g of the juiciest specimens you can and pair them with – wait for it – mango. The two summer fruits are a wonderful marriage in Yotam Ottolenghi’s tomato salad with mango miso dressing.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s tomatoes with mango miso dressing, in a bowl with two wooden spoons
A colourful combo: Yotam Ottolenghi’s tomatoes with mango miso dressing. Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian

Cucumbers too are in good supply and the continental variety can be found for $1.50 each. Narduzzo also recommends seeking out baby carrots – glorious when roasted with cherry tomatoes and spices – and beetroot.

Ever present, avocados can be found for $1 to $1.50 in supermarkets. Look out for South Australian avocados, which have a smaller seed and are slightly creamier than the West Australian variety. And while adding the alligator pears (and apple) to rojak is unconventional, it adds another layer of texture to Meera Sodha’s hot, sweet and sour salad.

Asian greens
Snow peas


Mandarins – the season is finishing up

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