As the days grow shorter, we ease into Autumn, traditionally known as harvest time – and for good reason. This is the time of year to enjoy orchard fruits and seasonal produce such as mushrooms, and you can also dust off the slow cooker in readiness for making stews, casseroles and other warming meals.
“Autumn is my favourite season,” says Eugene Lavery from Proper & Son. “I love using mushrooms and making braises that are earthy but light; maybe braising meat in white wine. I also love the combination of pumpkin and maple flavours and it’s a great time for cooking with apples – back where I’m from in Ireland, we use them all the time. They’re so versatile, there’s no limit as to what you can do with them.”
New season apples such as Golden Delicious, Fuji and Gala varieties are all arriving at the Market’s fruit and vegetable stalls, and you’ll find Packham and Bosc pears too.
For something a bit different to add a rich, russet tone to your table, try the organic Red Anjou pears from South Melbourne Market Organics.
The stall’s co-owner, Caroline Jennings, says you’ll also get a beautiful red colour from their organic quinces, despite outward appearances.
“If you cut a fresh quince, it just looks like an apple inside. It’s only once you cook it up to make quince jelly or paste that the fruit turns red,” she explains. The fruit is somewhat bitter and hard if eaten raw so is best cooked and used for jams, desserts and jellies. Try using quince to lend a tangy seasonal touch to a cheese platter.
These days, many mushrooms are available year-round, but some varieties can only be found in the Autumn, making them something of a seasonal luxury.
“Pine mushrooms and slippery jacks aren’t like something you can grow in an orchard, they grow wild in pine forests and can only be foraged when they’re ready,” says Georgie Dragwidge from Georgie’s Harvest.
“At the moment we have Australian grown lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms. A lot of the hot new restaurants are using lion’s mane like steak or putting it in stir fries, but I like to chop it up and put it in salads like croutons because it sucks up the dressing and you don’t need to use much. If you’re paying that much for a mushroom you want to be able to taste it, so it’s good in salads.”
For something a little heartier than a salad, head to Ralph’s Meat Company. Manager Darren Garner suggests stews and other slow-cooked meals.
“Lamb shoulder on the bone, casserole beef or oyster blade steak are all great for slow cooking,” he says.
Fish is also a great choice. Snapper is in season, and at South Melbourne Seafood, it’s recommended for its versatility as it stays firm when cooked and can be fried, grilled or barbecued.
If you’re looking for meat-free options, Pickadeli stocks vegetable lasagne, cornish pasties and other mains that can be heated in the oven, along with a range of gnocchi and other pastas and soups.
A fruit platter is a great way to round off a meal, and Gino Anile at Frank’s Quality Fruit & Veg recommends seasonal standards such as muscatel grapes, new season apples and mandarins – but also suggests trying something more exotic.
“We have the Achacha fruit which is originally from Bolivia but is grown in Queensland. You just cut it and eat it out of the peel and it tastes like a mangosteen.”
As with anything seasonal, these fruits are not necessarily available for long, so drop in and chat to the traders to keep in the loop about when to find them and what else to expect over the coming months – and enjoy planning your Autumn menu!
For an easy way to enjoy apples, check out this recipe from Gewürzhaus.