Buy Crikey: Buy in season for best taste and better value

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By buying in season, consumers get more fruit and veg for their money. Photo / Thinkstock
By buying in season, consumers get more fruit and veg for their money. Photo / Thinkstock

Are you gorging yourself on asparagus, strawberries and avocados? We are. They're in season and what's more, at their most flavoursome for the year.

Jolanda Hibbert, who runs fruit and vegetable box delivery company Veg'd Out, says prices jump as soon as produce is out of season.

When New Zealand truss tomatoes are in season, as they are now, Hibbert expects to pay $3 to $3.50kg in the market. Over winter she was paying as much as $9 a kg.

By buying in season, consumers get more fruit and veg for their money, says Hibbert, which is perhaps less of a tightwad way to look at the equation than I would.

Restricting purchases to in-season fruit and veges makes eating a whole lot more interesting.

When asparagus drops to a couple of dollars a bunch I buy up large. I then turn to the newspaper or Google for interesting new recipes, such as marinated asparagus salad with feta and olives and asparagus with avocado salsa, both of which I found on Foodhub.co.nz.

Consumers expect supermarkets to stock their favourite fruit and veges year round. Grapes are an example, says Steve Sexton, merchandise manager for produce at Countdown. If local grapes are not available they're sourced from Australia, the US and Chile.

Year-round availability is great for consumers who simply must make that artichoke recipe they've seen on TV but not so great for freshness and value for money.

A great place to buy in-season fruit and vegetables is at the Avondale, Otara, Takapuna and other smaller markets. Quite often the growers are selling the produce. At Takapuna market, my local, I often pay $1-$2 less a kilo for fruit than I might in the local supermarket.

Hibbert says it's important to know when the season is. Vegetables.co.nz from Horticulture New Zealand has a useful availability chart you can check out.

For example, apricots, which are just coming into season now, are available, but not as sweet as they will be if left on the tree a little longer.

I can't wait for the stone-fruit stalls to hit our neighbourhood in the next few weeks.

Another season that consumers are hanging out for is sweetcorn, says Sexton, which will take off in earnest in December. For the first time, Countdown has been importing sweetcorn from Australia, at $1.79 a cob, nearly three times the price consumers will pay for local produce at the height of the season. It has, however, been selling.


Deals

Fancy lettuces: 2 for $5, Avondale Market.

New Zealand truss tomatoes: $3.99kg, Fruitworld stores.

Nature's Offer agria potatoes: 5kg $6.49 at New World.

Avocados: 3 for $5. Avondale Market

Strawberries: 2 punnets for $4, Countdown, from tomorrow.

Boyds bunched asparagus 250g: 2 for $5 at New World.

- Herald on Sunday

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