Following on from our widely shared ‘guide to shopping supermarket-free’ last week, we’re keeping on with the theme of seasonal eating by focusing on what’s in season right now.
And who better to ask than local farmer Alison Alan Parkin from ALAN Foods in Jilliby. I had the pleasure visiting their farm a few weeks ago and having a guided tour of the market garden, greenhouse and food forest, whilst hearing about their dedication to chemical-free, no-till natural farming methods. They sell their freshly picked, seasonal produce via weekly boxes and at a roadside stall on Friday afternoons, near the intersection of Dickson and Hue Hue roads.
ALAN is an acronym for ‘All Local All Natural’, which reflects their commitment to transparency about how their food is grown and only selling produce grown on their own farm. Everything they sell is produced using techniques which are in harmony with nature, with no pesticides, chemicals or sprays of any kind used on their plants or soils.
Alison from ALAN foods
As summer draws to an end, the weather begins to cool and the days start to become shorter. With this brings a change in the garden as we see typical summer crops such as tomatoes and zucchinis slowing down, and the longer summer crops finally fruiting. On our farm we are finally starting to harvest some eggplants and the okra is producing plenty of fruit. We have also harvested two plots of purple skin sweet potato which is so smooth and creamy, it’s one of our favourites at the moment.
Autumn allows us to sow those Winter favourites like broccoli, cauliflower and snow peas. But what do we eat until they are ready? Well, there’s carrots and beetroots ready to come out, in addition to pumpkin vines dying so they’ll be ready over the coming weeks. We also sow a salad mix and still have some cucumber vines producing for that early Autumn salad.
So, why is all this so relevant?
Have you heard of food miles?
Georgia wrote an article on the “untold benefits of seasonal eating” a few weeks ago. By understanding what is in season in your local area, you will have a better chance at finding produce that hasn’t travelled thousands of kilometres to reach you. Furthermore, your veggies will be fresher as they haven’t been stored or refrigerated longer than necessary. Additionally, this produce should be cheaper as it hasn’t been shipped in from outer state. Buying direct from the farmer cuts out the middleman and further reduces the costs; also giving you the peace of mind knowing how your food has been grown.
At ALAN Foods, our priority is the soil. If we can nourish the soil to encourage a diverse fungal and bacterial life, our plants will have the health and immunity to resist diseases and pest pressure, resulting in more nutrient rich food. This eliminates the need for pesticides and results in populations of beneficial insects and bugs to help nature balance itself out. We have permanent beds which are never dug to preserve the soil life and structure. These beds receive compost made on site at certain stages of the year to feed the soil food web.
So, in summary, here’s a list of what we are pulling out of the garden at the moment on our farm. These items should be in abundance at the local market gardens all over the Central Coast.
• Spring onions
• Salad mix
• Sweet Potato
• Kang Kong (water spinach)
• Rainbow Chard
What to do with all this produce?
I’m sure you don’t need ideas with zucchini and tomatoes, so we thought we would give a shout out to Okra – a vegetable that most people point to and ask “what’s that?” And “what does it taste like?” To which we usually are lost for words due to its unique texture and flavour.
It’s difficult to describe so we usually start with how we use it. It can actually be eaten raw, and like many vegetables, will give you the most nourishment this way. However, there are a few simple ways to cook okra and we’ve adapted a great beginner recipe from thespruceeats.com, included below.
Okra come with a warning to not overcook. It has a natural sliminess which can become overwhelming when cooked for too long. This sliminess is due to a substance called mucilage which is also found in aloe vera.
For a quick meal we simply fry the okra in a small amount of oil and garlic, or simply chop it up into 1cm chunks and throw it into your stir fry. Okra is harvested with a small amount of stem, its best to cut this top off like you would a zucchini or eggplant.
If you want to make a feature dish with your okra, this traditional recipe is a great place to start and includes a great tip for reducing the sliminess.
Stewed Okra in Tomato Sauce
What you’ll need:
• Approx. 600g of Okra
• ½ cup white vinegar
• 1 tbsp salt
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 onion diced
• 1 garlic clove minced
• 1 tin of tomatoes
• ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
• ½ cup water
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. Soak 600g okra for at least an hour in enough water to cover with the white vinegar and salt.
2. Drain the okra before cooking, but do not rinse and then dry it on some paper towel.
3. Use a large soup pot, heat ¼ cup olive oil on medium-high heat. Add one diced onion and sauté until translucent, then add one garlic clove minced and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
4. Add the okra, tinned tomato, parsley and water. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until tender (approx. 30-40min). Keep an eye on the liquid levels and add more if needed.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with rice.
To find out more about ALAN foods, head to their facebook page: www.facebook.com/Alan-Foods-119040889489351
We’ll be featuring another simple, seasonal recipe next week.