Revealing the quincessentials
Belinda McLean, Transition Towns, Ōtaki
The long, mellow autumn has brought a plentiful harvest each Thursday to Transition Town Otaki’s community fruit and vegetable stall. A couple of times this month stall patrons have also enjoyed the equally mellow sounds of guitar music produced by two talented Argentinian wwoofers taking a break from their work for one of our suppliers.
By late April produce is usually scarce and we are ready to take down our umbrella and pack up for the winter, but this year has been an exception with no date yet fixed to shut up shop.
First up it was a great season for all the summer vegies—beetroot, beans, tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers. Then successive waves of fruit—plums, peaches, grapes and now apples, feijoas, figs, pears and quinces. Not to mention the autumn crop of capsicums and chillies of all shapes and sizes.
Quinces are especially abundant this year, but seem to be a mystery to many who come to the stall. The secret to quinces is long, slow cooking, giving them time to develop their fragrant flavour and deep amber or rose colouring.
Stall workers have their own favourite approaches to quinces. One way is to use a slow cooker, the other a conventional oven, but both avoid the wrist-breaking chore of peeling, coring and cutting up the quinces, which can be done once they’re cooked. Either method can be adapted to sweet or savoury—just leave out or include sugar or honey and season appropriately:
- A slow-cooker or crock-pot is a great way to cook quinces. Rub any fluff off the quinces and cut off any blemishes, or peel, if you prefer. Stand them upright and cook in a syrup (either white sugar or honey), spiced with a cinnamon stick, a few cloves and a vanilla pod, lemon zest. Cook on high for about three hours or until a deep pink and soft when skewered. Serve warm with yoghurt or ice-cream. If the quinces are very large you will want to cut them in half and remove the core before serving.
- Bake or roast quinces whole at 180 degrees C, till soft but not collapsing. Cut in half lengthwise and core. For a savoury dish serve quince middle eastern style with lamb or chicken, with seasonings such as sumac, dried thyme, sesame seeds, pine nuts.
KCDC’s basil patch on the east side of the stall’s location has now been replaced with kale, not ready yet for plucking but which will no doubt be just as popular with Ōtaki cooks.
If you have extra produce or eggs that you’d like to sell, we’d love to see you on a Thursday any time between 10.30 and 11am. Lemons are in short supply but hot demand so if you have a lemon tree still producing, we’d love to see you.
We pay you 80% of the price at which your produce will be sold—the 20% covers the cost of any left-over produce and expenses. Produce left at the end of the day goes to the Food Bank or the House of Hope. Funds remaining at the end of each year are used for donations to local charities such as the Food Bank and Health Shuttle.