Autumn! The days become cooler and a tad shorter, grapes are harvested at the end of February – early March and there is a certain spirituality in nature and science coming together in the process of grape to bottle. These signal the beginning of Autumn for me.
- My favourite fruit of all time is the quince. It grows in the autumn months of March, April and May. Most people I talk to are intimidated by it as it is not a classic fruit you can eat raw. The south Americans do however, by slicing it and sprinkling it liberally with salt. A more common way to use it however is to cook it. Simply cut it in half and bake it with honey and spices slowly in the oven overnight to bring out its rosy colour and heady fragrance. The cooked quinces will keep for a week or so in there cooking syrup in the refrigerator and are delicious with custard, sliced into tarts or with a scoop of ice cream. Quinces are also great in savoury dishes by cutting them into wedges and panfrying with witlof or other bitter leaves. Delicious served with pork or strong flavoured fish such as mackerel. They are the ideal fruit to eat coming into the cooler months. It’s high in immune boosting vitamin C and contains special tannins that bind to toxins, helping protect us from inflammation.
- Other wonderful Autumn fruits are persimmons from March to June, pomegranates from March to May, crisp and juicy Nashi pears in March which are delicious shaved into salads, and of course wonderful, in season apples and pears from February to June. Try them fresh off the tree and notice the difference. The other pear we all love is the avocado. Hass are in seasonfrom May through to January and Shepard’s are in season from February through to May.
- Autumn is when I start hunting for mushrooms. Look out for saffron milk caps (pine mushrooms) for a real treat and the large parasols which are delicious roasted whole in the oven with garlic butter, thyme and breadcrumbs. Squash such as pumpkins and patti pans are also in their prime and are delicious roasted or made into soup when the weather cools. I roast pumpkin in a very hot oven to caramelise the flesh and increase its sweetness, leaving the skin and seeds intact for extra nutrition and texture.
- Nuts are harvested between late march and June and are delicious green and fresh from the tree. Sadly, most of us only know a nut as the dry, often salted variety we find in bags, however a green nut from the tree, very early in the harvest has a jelly like texture and further into the season, will gradually firm into a waxy texture. I love them shaved into salads or for making refreshing milk as a non-dairy alternative which makes wonderful jelly. My favourite is to serve green pistachio jelly with slices of persimmon.
- As a final note for seafood lovers…. March and April are the last months of the Sydney Rock Oysters season so enjoy them while you can until they come back in September. Wild NSW crab, prawns and yabbies are available March and April, Green lip Abalone starts in May and squid is ideal right through Autumn.