Try some of the more unusual fruit and veg in season this month – and check out the latest healthy products on the shelf.
Persimmons are an extremely versatile fruit, with two distinct varieties – sweet and original – that are in season from late-February to mid-June. Sweet persimmons are round and stout with a slightly flat top and can be eaten like a crunchy apple. The original is a larger, more elongated, heart-shaped fruit and is eaten only when it is completely ripe and the flesh is soft and jelly-like. Persimmons can be added to salads or desserts and go brilliantly with flavours like smoked poultry, cheese and bitter lettuce leaves. There's about 300kJ, 2.6g fibre and 1/3 of the RDI for calcium per 100g.
Also known as champagne fruit, the babaco is a five-sided, torpedo-shaped fruit. It's closely related to the pawpaw and can be used in similar ways - it’s delicious in salsas and salads. Its smooth, thin skin is edible and is yellow when ripe. The babaco’s flesh is yellow to white and is sweetly flavoured with hints of pineapple, pawpaw and strawberries. Babacoes should be eaten when completely ripe. Choose fruit that are completely yellow with no green patches and enjoy as soon as possible, or store in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Look for babacoes between March and May.
Tips for cooking
Make a refreshing drink by blending babaco with crushed ice and watermelon.
Make salsa to serve with fish or chicken. Combine finely diced babaco with roughly chopped mint leaves, finely chopped red chilli and a little lime juice.
Babaco contains the enzyme papain, so will help to tenderise meat. Try rubbing a slice over chicken or steak before barbecuing, for tenderness and tropical flavour.
Kaffir lime leaves
These flavourful little gems are essential in South-East Asian cooking and definitely worth experimenting with! They don’t contribute anything significant in terms of nutrition but have an intense fragrance which will flavour any Thai curry, laksa, stir-fry or even jasmine rice beautifully. Remove the centre vein, then finely shred or tear the leaves to add to salads, curries and stir-fries. You can also add whole or torn leaves to soups and curries, but remember to remove them before serving. You can buy Kaffir lime leaves in the fresh-food section of the supermarket. Look for leaves that are dark-green and glossy. Store in a plastic bag or container in the crisper for up to one week or freeze for up to one year.
The choko is a versatile vegetable – when you cook with choko, it takes on the flavours of the dish, making it a great filler for curries or stir-fries. It can also be mixed with fruit in sweet pies or desserts. The choko is low in energy with just 85kJ per 100g (2/3 cup) and is a good source of vitamin C. The common choko variety is available all year, while the white variety is available March to April. Choose firm, small and fresh green chokos that are free from brown spots or signs of sprouting, and store your choko carefully as it can bruise easily. Store whole, unwrapped, in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Products to try in March
LoGiCane Low-GI Soft Icing Mixture: The latest addition to the CSR range, LoGiCane Low-GI Soft Icing Mixture has a GI of 53, whereas regular icing sugar has a GI of 67. Growing research attests to the benefits of low-GI diets in assisting the fight against obesity, diabetes control and weight management. LoGiCane Low-GI soft icing mixture can be used as a direct replacement in baking. Available in major supermarkets.
SunRice Sweet Rice Cakes: SunRice Sweet Rice Cakes, available in Caramel, Apple & Cinnamon and Honey, are a good addition to the snack cupboard. There’s only 150–160kJ per serve (2 rice cakes) depending on the flavour, making them great for adding your favourite toppings. HFG's favourite? Honey with a smear of peanut butter to cure the mid-afternoon slump.
KR Castlemaine Naturals: Are you worried about eating ham because of the preservatives used in production? KR Castlemaine has launched a range of packaged ham processed using new technology to exclude artificial preservatives. There are three 97% fat-free flavours to choose from. You’ll get around 105kJ, less than 1g fat and sat fat and 185-205mg sodium per slice; depending on the flavour.