Most commercial fruit is picked underripe. It is stored for weeks or months, then gassed when it’s ready to be freighted and stocked on shop shelves. While there are logistical benefits to this, it does not allow us to consume the produce at maximum nutrient density.
A delightful discovery of farming is learning the point of maturity that things can, and perhaps should, be harvested at. Farming means I don’t have to have my choices dictated by perishability in a supermarket.
For instance, we have been picking our bananas and mangoes when they have reached maximum ripeness, which often means part of the bunch has been nibbled by some other critter first. When you gently place your palm underneath a fruit, and it falls into your patient hand, that is a clear sign the fruit is now yours.
This notion of sacredness was talked about by Yuin elder Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison at Sydney’s MAD Monday Indigenous Foodways event last year. The sentiment of respectful ease in nature is present in almost every traditional culture and yet, in our modern times of supermarket convenience, we forget this.
Produce also tends to be selected for maximum sweetness – which is what we’ve conditioned our tastebuds to want. Complex flavours and nutritional qualities are abandoned in its favour. We’ve forgotten that many fruits are supposed to be sour, sometimes bitter and even sometimes sting our lips with terpenes, due to the anti-oxidant compounds present.
As a young child, most Saturday mornings were spent with my mum sitting outside markets minding the bags while she was inside doing the weekly shop.
During the summer I’d watch the parade of brightly dressed ladies waltzing in and out of the markets with lengthy gourds. They refused compliance; no bag could fit them neatly. So shoppers would come out with gourds hazardously tucked under their arms.
And then finally there my mother would be, eyes wide open, mouth pursed in concentration, striding towards me communicating without words that she needed me to relieve her of some of the six or seven gourds that threatened to tumble from her arms as she carried multiple bags in her hands. That was my job: chief catcher of produce.
These gourds were enormous, each a foot or more long. I’m certain one could feed a family of four. Though after you’ve peeled away the woody angles and most of the outer skin, what is left has halved in volume and weight.
The way I usually ate them, which is the most common method throughout the Chinese and South East Asian traditions, was stir fried with garlic and an egg beaten in at the end, seasoned with oyster sauce and white pepper. It’s still the way I cook it for my kids – except now I pick the gourds when they are a little larger than a Sharpie marker. This makes them an entirely different vegetable.
When they are picked with their yellow flower still attached, similar to a baby zucchini, they are tender with a satisfying crunch and require no peeling. All they need is a lick of heat from a smoking wok.
Though this is hardly the only way they can be eaten, these tender young members of the cucurbit family have a curious aroma, reminiscent of fresh peanuts. They are just as delicious very lightly steamed and dipped into bagna cauda – garlic and anchovy whipped into a good quality new season olive oil.
The prettiest way I’ve seen them served was by my mate Ben Devlin at his restaurant Pipit, paired with some fresh tiger striped peanuts which we also grow. Sadly, if you aren’t growing it, it is almost near impossible to buy them young. So best to get growing!
Luffa acutangula gourds make up a wide range of incredible vegetables. I grew up eating them, but once I started growing them I began to understand their potential across different culinary styles.
Stir fried angled luffa gourd with egg
3tbsp rendered pork fat, schmaltz, macadamia or olive oil
1 medium size organic angled luffa gourd Pick one that isn’t overly large with skin that hasn’t fully hardened. Using a potato peeler, remove any tough skin. Cut into uneven pieces for texture
1-2 eggs, beaten
5 cloves of organic garlic, peeled and minced roughly
2tbsp oyster sauce
1tbsp Red Boat fish sauce
1tbsp rice vinegar or mirin
¼ tbsp freshly ground white pepper
Heat fat or oil in a seasoned wok on your hottest element and when it starts to ripple add the garlic and stir, making sure to only take it to golden and not burnt.
Add the gourds, oyster sauce, fish sauce, vinegar or mirin and white pepper and alternatively toss and turn them for a minute or so. Pour in the beaten egg and with a spatula or wooden spoon keep agitating and breaking the egg up, as if you are making scrambled egg, but not too much.
When the gourds have softened and the egg is just cooked, serve immediately. Eat it and be connected through time to every grandma or grandpa who has ever cooked this.
Source: Thanks https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/jan/19/ripe-for-change-growing-your-own-food-means-always-picking-it-at-the-right-time