Try some of the more unusual fruit and veg in season this month – and check out the latest healthy products on the shelf.
This tropical fruit is a close relative of rambutans and lychees. The translation of longan is ‘dragon’s eye’ because it resembles an eyeball when its fruit is shelled. Round to oval in shape with golden-brown, thin skin, longan peels to reveal a translucent pulp enclosing a round, black seed. Choose firm fruits and open to eat by simply squeezing at the stalk end to pop out the flesh. Fresh longan can be stored, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for five to seven days. Longans complement savoury foods – simply remove seed and try adding to a stir-fry. Longans are available between December and May – so now's a good time to try them!
High in protein and fibre (100g cooked has 7g and 7.6g respectively), mung beans are a source of magnesium, iron, niacin and contain smaller amounts of potassium, folate and vitamin A. Mung beans are small green legumes and turn light yellow when their skin is removed. They can be eaten whole, split with skins on, split and hulled, or sprouted. When sprouted, mung beans are more commonly known as bean sprouts. They are a staple ingredient in Indian and Chinese cooking and are great for adding to soups, stews, stir-fries or salads. To sprout the beans, soak overnight, bring to the boil in fresh water and cook for about 1 hour.
Royal blue potatoes
Are long, oval-shaped potatoes with purple skin and yellow flesh. With a slightly sweet flavour, these potatoes can be mashed, roasted, fried or used in salads. Store in a cool, dry place, away from light, and avoid spongy, wrinkled or green potatoes. To prepare, peel or wash potatoes then cook as desired. For a Moroccan-inspired salad, bake royal blue potatoes and allow to cool slightly. Toss with vine-ripened tomatoes, small amounts of basil, coriander and rocket, and add flavour with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cumin seeds, ground paprika and freshly ground black pepper. Royal blue potatoes are available all year.
Also known as luffa and Chinese okra, this pale green vegetable is similar to a cucumber in shape, with the addition of 6 to 8 pronounced ridges running along its length. Pale green with white flesh, sin qua tastes like a sweeter version of zucchini. They can be baked, boiled or used in curries. Look for firm sin qua, with no soft or discoloured patches, and store them in the crisper section of your fridge for 5 to 6 days. For an interesting way to cook them, hollow out the centres, stuff with meat or rice, then bake or steam. For a fresh vegetable dish, peel 2 sin qua and cut into short thin strips. Stir-fry in peanut oil and crushed garlic for 2 minutes, then add 3 tablespoons oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons water and 1/2 teaspoon caster sugar. Stir-fry until sin qua is tender.
New products to try in May
Campbell's Country Ladle café-style: Campbell’s new soup range is now available in supermarkets. With 5 different flavours, they are all 98% fat-free, are a source of fibre and protein and have up to 2 serves of vegies per 250g serve. They also carry the Heart Foundation tick.
Yoplait Cal-tivate: New Yoplait Cal-tivate is 98% fat-free with at least 40% of the RDI for calcium, and a source of vitamin D. It’s available in a variety of fruity flavours. You’ll also notice new packaging on shelves, as Yoplait has replaced its creamy range with a new range – all 98% fat-free and with probiotic cultures.
belVita Breakfast Biscuits: Low-GI with five wholegrains and a source of fibre (1.7–3.3g per serve), these crunchy biscuits are specially designed for breakfast and are available in 3 different flavours. They make a good, balanced breakfast option when eaten with a serve of reduced-fat dairy and a piece of fruit.