Tom Bowles brings us the best of the season’s produce…
Hartley Farm Shop and Café is located just outside Bath, selling a fresh and colourful selection of local, seasonal produce.
Visit: www.hartley-farm.co.uk, or follow Hartley Farm on Twitter: @hartleyFarm
This robust, knobbly root is a sure sign that winter is on its way. Historically, parsnips were used to sweeten dishes where sugar was not widely available and so were used a great deal more in cooking. A little tip is to pick parsnips that have already faced a frost as this adds to their sweetness. Try to pick firm, dry parsnips that are not too big as the bigger they are the more woody the core tends to be. They can be stored well in a fridge for 2-3 weeks provided they are covered. A parsnip that is no longer at its best will tend to look withered and wrinkled and turns slightly soft. There are hundreds of different ways to cook with parsnips and be sure to try as many as you can before deciding on your favourite to offer on the table for your Christmas lunch!
Pumpkins are often mistreated when they burst into season being carved up for a Halloween decoration – a waste of what is an amazing ingredient at this time of year! Whether roasted or fried, made into soups or pies, make sure you make more of your sweet squash! Pumpkins work really well with heavier herbs and spices such as thyme or ginger to work with their sweetness. Try roasting the seeds with salt and chilli too. Pick pumpkins that are weighty and with unblemished skin. If stored in a cool, dark place they will keep for several weeks.
Cranberries range from bright red to a deep, festive red and the best berries will be brightly coloured and firm. As they are usually available in packets, you won’t always get all the berries in the same condition, so discard any soft, shrivelled or discoloured ones. They will keep their freshness for a couple of weeks in the fridge but also freeze very well providing you don’t wash them beforehand. Along with their most obvious use in sauces or jellies they can be great in sweet and savoury pies, stuffing, relishes and tarts. Their sweet but sharp flavour tends to go very well with cold meats, particularly white meat, making it the perfect addition to the infamous Boxing Day sandwich!
The tough, leathery skin of this fruit is the protector of hundreds of bright capsules that are bursting with a sweet but sharp, dry but refreshing aftertaste. They are also heaped with antioxidants too. When picking, look for fruits that are weighty for their size. They will keep for a few weeks but I doubt they will last for that long! They can be prepared by cutting in half and scooping out the seeds. They are delicious on their own but my favourite method is sprinkling them over a salad with cured ham or a nice salty cheese.