What's in season - July 31 round-up

Cumquats

Most cumquats grown in Australian home gardens are the calamondins variety. The fruit is round, can grow to the size of a golf ball and is mouth-puckeringly tart. Commercial growers grow nagami cumquats instead. This variety has small, oval fruit with an inside-out flavour profile: the juice is sour but the skin is sweet - well, sweetish. The whole package popped in the mouth is very refreshing. They are eaten fresh or sliced and added to desserts or salads, but the usual use for nagamis is marmalade. They make marmalade so good it's a challenge not to just skip the toast and eat it by the spoonful. Jam makers should keep an eye out for bargain boxes.

WAYS WITH CUMQUATS
For a tangy salad, slice cumquats horizontally and remove the seeds. Toss the slices with torn butter lettuce, cubes of avocado, a few leaves of shredded radicchio and de-seeded dried black olives. Dress with a white wine and olive oil-based dressing.

Sand whiting
This fish is found all along the eastern seaboard and is in peak supply in winter. Most sand whiting available in Sydney is caught in southern Queensland and northern NSW. The fish have a habit of hanging around in dense shoals in sandy shallows, which partly explains why the species is one of the most affordable locals lined up on the ice at the fishmongers. The ubiquity of the sand whiting may also explain why it's not more fashionable. Its South Australian cousin, the King George whiting, is prized as one of the country's best-eating fish. Yet the common sandy's flavour is good - so good that many Japanese chefs prefer it for sashimi. Sand whiting also earns a tick from the Australian Marine Conservation Society. It's usually sold as thin fillets backed by its slightly speckled silvery skin, though it can also be found as whole fish. The fish is quite low in oil, so gentle, speedy cooking methods are best: pan frying, steaming or grilling.

Eschalots
The sweet, mild flavour of these little onions means they are a favourite in sauces, dressings and salads. They also add a nutty, sweet crunch when deep-fried slices are scattered over anything with a south-east Asian bent. But cooks may curse when they are on an ingredients list because they can be the devil to peel. The tight, shiny, slippery skin on fresh eschalots is frustratingly resistant to fingers keen to remove it quickly. Soaking them in boiling water for a few minutes softens the skins and makes them easier to peel once drained and cooled. A rustic alternative to wrestling with the eschalot skin is simply to roast them whole, skin-on, with the root end cut off to avoid explosive accidents. Such tactics won't do for an eschalot tarte tatin or for eschalots braised in red wine, but with a roast chook, this alternative is just fine.

WHAT TO BUY

Asian greens Still growing fast, despite the cold.

Bananas The grey-tinged skin disguises really tasty fruit.

Brussels sprouts Choose a size to suit, from baby to big.

Capsicum Prices are coming down as fruit arrives from Bowen.

Jerusalem artichokes Add to the roasting dish.

Kumara Huge ones are cheap and tasty.

Onions Browns are at bargain prices.

Oranges Blood oranges are at their best.

Pears Red Anjou is a pretty pick.

Passionfruit Buy unwrinkled fruit.

Rhubarb Look for bunches of firm stems.

Strawberries Heavy rain in Queensland is playing havoc with supply.

Tangelo Juicy and delicious.

The story What's in season - July 31 round-up first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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