Fresh Fruit: Rocklea Markets

THE heat has taken its toll shortening supplies of some vegetable favourites but there are plenty of other reasonably priced and cheap fresh produce items for your pantry.

The lingering summer blaze has pushed up the price of Asian vegetables, asparagus, beetroot, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, fennel and leeks. Expect to pay a firm price for good quality capsicum although there are some cheaper options around for older stock.

Beans and pumpkin are cheap. Parsnips, which prefer to grow in the cooler months of the year, are expensive. Scrub them well and trim the top and root before using them for cooking.

For the budget conscious, look for carrots, celery, eggplant, snow peas, silverbeet, sweet corn, zucchini, mushrooms and the hard lines, including onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

In the salad line, truss tomatoes are creeping up in price this week but other tomato varieties are reasonable, as are avocados, mixed salad leaves, cucumber, eshallots and all herbs.

Most lettuce varieties have risen in price. Choose a fresh looking lettuce which is heavy for its size and store it in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper.

It's melon time of year, and both watermelon and rockmelon cheap.

Melon lovers may also like to try dragon fruit, a colourful, edible cactus that has melon-like features. It's cheap this week, along with lemons and limes, which when squeezed onto dragon fruit really lifts the taste.

Figs are cheap while bananas, oranges, pineapples, passionfruit and stonefruit are reasonable.

Expect to pay firm prices for good quality apples, with new season royal gala the best eating. Average quality strawberries and better quality raspberries, blueberries and grapes are firmly priced, with green, sometimes called white, grapes the most popular pick. Try freezing small bunches and eating them frozen like miniature ice blocks.

Yellow pawpaw is expensive.

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