Mike’s Summer Produce Guide

Summer! The sun shines, berries ripen, stone fruits burst with fragrant juice, and crisp leafy greens are at their best. Summer cooking demands simplicity, tons of salads, bright flavours and a generally lighter touch in the kitchen.

  • For me the ultimate arrival of summer are cherries as we draw closer to the festive season. Cherries are best eaten chilled as they are so pure in flavour and texture. As the season moves on and the price drops, they are wonderful preserved and brought out to eat with roasted and grilled meats or on the side of cheeses and cold cuts. When we enter into the later parts of January, figs will take the centre stage. A great way to choose the perfect fig is to feel for its heavy weight, its supple to touch skin and a drop of syrupy juice on the underside. These are tell-tale signs of a juicy sweet fig. Berries such as raspberries and strawberries, and stone fruit such as peaches, plums and nectarines also hit their stride in the hot months. Besides eating them simple, I like to use them in cooling salads or roast them to bring out their intense flavours.
  • Oysters are at their prime at this time of year and are lovely freshly shucked, steamed or placed on the BBQ over coals and are ready when the top shell pops open. Sydney Rock oysters are harvested at around three to four years of age, spawning in the cooler months and are at their best (plump, juicy and plentiful) in the summer months – perfect for the festive season. An oyster in its prime should be tightly closed with a heavy shell and they should be plump and glistening when you open them. They have a very intense iodine flavour, are creamy in texture and not as salty as Pacific oysters, which makes them perfect with a celebratory silly season glass of bubbles.
  • Tomatoes are bursting at their seams and are delicious with a sprinkle of salt, a squeeze of lemon to balance their sweetness or used in other summery salads such as the Tuscan bread salad called Panzanella. Try baking them by cutting large Ox Heart/ Beef Steak tomatoes in half, giving them a good hit of seasoning, sprinkling them with breadcrumbs and thyme and dousing them with olive oil. The tomatoes go soft inside with a crunchy, herby bread crumb top
  • Garlic is full of punch this time of year as the harvest of green garlic from Spring has now cured and into the dryer bulbs of garlic most of us know. At this time of year, it will be still moist and sharp in flavour. The Catalans got it so right with their simple dish called “Pa am tomaquet” Tomato bread – simply rub or chop a raw garlic clove onto a piece of toast, squeeze a tomato over it before dousing it with zingy olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. It’s the perfect snack on a warm summers evening. Garlic is also crucial for our health as we move from the hot months into the cooler months. It not only helps boost our immune system, but also contains a compound called When eaten raw it is found to reduce inflammation and offer antioxidant benefits. An ideal little helper to get over the silly season.

Mike xx

The Carriageworks Farmers Market is open Saturdays, 8am-1pm.