February Edition – Eating with the seasons

Taiwan’s fruit is genuinely something to behold, nicknamed “The Kingdom of fruit” by some, and you can certainly see how and why.

However, let’s face it, almost all of us will buy out of season fruits or vegetables at some point. But sometimes, it is difficult to know which is in season at any given time. I am a firm believer of eating with the seasons, but often I fall short of upholding my own beliefs in this regard, and I applaud all of you who manage to do it.

I hope my list encourages you to order with the season, the fruits and vegetables will taste the better for it, that’s for sure! Eating with the seasons is important, so let’s do it.

芭樂 Guava

So, yeh, Guava is available all year round. But, you should know that there are times where the flavour will be more intense and sweeter. February is just one of those times.

葡萄 Grapes

These grapes taste just like an intense grape juice you may have drunk before. Don’t eat the skin, and be aware that they will have seeds inside. But, definitely, don’t let seasonal Taiwanese grapes pass you by!

棗子 Jujube/Fresh Date, 蓮霧 Wax Apple

Not only are Jujube fun to say, but they are unique in flavour, too. I feel like there’s a slightly bitter, dry, sweetness to their flavour and texture. I prefer to use a speed peeler to take the skin off, then I will cut 4 segments off the flesh to expose and throw away the large seed inside.

Tip: Don’t eat on an empty stomach – you may get stomachache.

釋迦 Custard Apple/Buddha’s head

I always go for these when I see them, they’re just too good not to. I recommend to leave until it is soft to the touch, then break it apart with your hands, and unceremoniously stuff your face in it. Each ‘segment’ of flesh will have a seed, so make sure you’re careful (the seeds are very hard, and inedible). It’s sweet, sticky, fragrant, and delicious. I highly recommend this.

橘子 Tangerine

Very popular around Chinese New Year, the humble tangerine is known and loved by all.

Always in season: Musk Melon 美濃瓜、Banana 香蕉、Guava 芭樂

Vegetables

花椰菜 Cauliflower and Broccoli

So the Taiwanese call cauliflower and broccoli by the same name. I suggest signifying between the two by saying 綠 (green) or 白 (white) if you ever want one. I would also say pay no more than $40 for cauliflower, and no more than $25 for a head of broccoli.

番茄 Tomatoes

The markets are brimming with tomatoes right now. They’re delicious, too!

娃娃菜 Baby Chinese Cabbage

The translation is a bit weak here, but, it’s about all I could find. I asked the vendor how to cook this up, she said: take off the ‘florets’ and slice them up, then stir fry them as you would broccoli. I asked if it’s better to use water to boil them, or to stir-fry, and she scoffed off the boiling method, saying stir-fry or nothing. OK.

白蘿蔔 Daikon Radish

They are delicious when in season, like right about now. I like to pickle them with some turmeric. Recipe: peel and chop the radish into 1cm cubes/thin slices, toss with salt and leave for at least 1hr to extract some of the moisture. Drain, rinse, and pat dry. Now the pickling liquid: 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups rice vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 bay leaf, 10 peppercorns, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 cloves of smashed garlic. Put all pickling liquid ingredients together in a pan, bring to the boil until sugar dissolves, then turn off the heat and allow to sit until just warm.

Transfer to pickling jars/mason jars, it’s ready pretty much straight away but is best after a week. It will keep in the fridge for at least 1 month.

大頭菜 Chinese Turnip

I really like this vegetable. I cut off the skin, cut into 2cm thick slices, and roast in the oven with some olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper – win!

Always in season: Mushrooms 香菇、Purple Sweet Potato 紫心甘薯、Mustard Greens 芥菜、Black tree fungus 黑木耳、King Oyster Mushroom 杏鮑菇、Loofah 絲瓜、Corn 玉米、Leeks 韭菜、Green Onions/Scallions蔥、Chillis辣椒

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