Summer is just about to finish, March is officially the start of Autumn and you will be able to feel the coolness sneaking through in the middle of night. The days are thankfully still long and hot which is perfect for ripening grapes and the main crops of all of our fruit and vegetables - Sweet corn is at its best after a long summer of ripening, Royal Gala Apples are now available, crispy and sweet, tart and juicy. Zucchinis, Scaloppini’s, onions, carrots, beetroot are in full flourish. Omega Plums and NZ Table grapes have now come on stream and are in abundance.
Jim tannock for photo credit
It is in the spring that we sow all of these seeds, the flowers are pollinated and the long slow process of growing begins. Summer provides the heat and more importantly the light to allow for successful harvests of our edible products. At this time of year, the word plentiful is on the tip of the tongue and while the end-of-summer crops are still in abundance, along comes some of the most flavoursome ingredients that nature can offer. Time is the ingredient missing from most recipes today, the time to slow down and enjoy what we have around us and just what is in season, what taste the best and is seasonally cheaper than other times of the year – we forget when one season starts and another finishes as other things consume our lives.
The name for autumn in Maori is Ngahuru, an archaic word for ten. This is because autumn started during the tenth month (February–March) in the traditional calendar. Ngahuru is also the name for harvest, which occurred at this time and you put away food (preserved) for the cooler months of the year. While we may not preserve and store food like we used to do it is something that more and more people are turning to as both a relaxing, social and enjoyable lifestyle choice, so that they too can capture the real flavours of a season and then enjoy them at a later time.
Sweet and sour tomatoes and apples
These will go perfectly with white meats and garden vegetables, either as a side dish or mixed with rice or other grains to make a tasty salad.
500 g green tomatoes (unripe toms)
4 green chillies, cored and seeded
2 onions, finely diced
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 cooking apples, peeled and diced
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup white wine vinegar
To skin the tomatoes, pierce their skins, place in a bowl, cover with boiling water and let them stand for 3 minutes. Drain, peel while hot and chop finely. Heat the oil in a medium-size frying pan, add the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until thick and puréed. Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal for later use.