Pumpkin prices squashed, ‘kale balls’ roll up: Australia’s best-value fruit and veg for June

<span>Photograph: Claudia Totir/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Claudia Totir/Getty Images

The first day of winter may bite but in June, your antidote is soul-reviving soups. Specifically, pumpkin soup.

“As it gets colder, pumpkins are cheap,” says Sonya Agostino, manager at Mortdale Fruit Box in south Sydney.

“You can easily make a big pot of pumpkin soup, and for $4 or $5 you can feed a family.”

In the coming weeks, heirloom pumpkin varieties like Jarrahdale will become available. Meanwhile, Kent pumpkin can be found in supermarkets for about $1.50 a kilo or less on special, with butternut pumpkin at about $3.50 a kilo.

And it’s worth making the most of the June crop. The pumpkins on shelves now come from north Victoria and New South Wales and were grown over summer. The long growing season means they have a better, more intense flavour, says Leon Mugavin, owner of The Leaf Store in Elwood, Melbourne.

“When you get into July and August, the local ones are finished, and they come from Queensland,” Mugavin says. “They’re grown a lot faster and they’re more watery.”

Beyond soup, you can turn pumpkin into savoury pancakes, fritters fragrant with lemongrass and lime leaves, or shwe payon thee hin (Burmese pumpkin curry).

Agostino recommends keeping an eye out for spaghetti squash, a mild-flavoured pumpkin variety with a novelty factor – when the flesh is scraped, it resembles noodles. Do as Yotam Ottolenghi does and stuff it with spiced lamb and feta.

Plenty of potatoes, lots of leeks

In other winter veg news: potatoes, leeks, and potato and leek soup.

Potatoes are $3.50 to $4.50 a kilo in supermarkets, while leeks are $2 to $3 each. Which means the excuses for not making Rukmini Iyer’s leek, cheddar and mustard loaded potato skins are growing thinner by the day.

You’ll find fennel (about $3.50 each) and white cabbage (about $3.50 a head) in Alice Zaslavsky’s shchi – a soup that promises to rescue your fading crisper veg. Capsicums, meanwhile, remain at $6 or $7 a kilo – so put this fennel and red capsicum bake high on your to-do list.

Purple sprouts and ‘little kale balls’

“What is really thriving? Brussels sprouts! They need cold weather,” says Mugavin.

Brussels sprouts can be found for about $9 a kilo in supermarkets, but are on special now and in grocers for $4 to $6 a kilo. Roast and douse them with a warm honey glaze, or throw them in a hot pan with onion, chorizo and dry sherry for a quick and easy dinner.

If you’re lucky, Mugavin says you may also be able to find redarling brussels sprouts – a vivid purple variety with a nuttier flavour - and kalettes. “Like little kale balls, and they’re fabulous,” says Mugavin. He suggests roasting them in a hot oven so “they cook and caramelise.”

Asian greens and spring onions are abundant and affordable (about $2.80 a bunch in supermarkets); and kale, spinach and silverbeet remain steady at around $4 a bunch.

While susceptible to any wet weather, cauliflower are currently about $4 a head and broccoli about $4.50 a kilo in supermarkets – a reasonable price for this time of year.

Citrus steals the limelight, persimmons reach their peak

“Citrus – your oranges and mandarins – they’re the winter best,” says Mick Frugtneit, manager at Tom’s Superfruits in Canberra. “Mandarins, they’re generally only a few dollars a kilo in winter.”

Imperial and afourer mandarins are about $3.50 to $4.50 a kilo in supermarkets and about $2 a kilo on special. Supply will continue throughout winter – their only threat is persistent rain.

Topview of a serving bowl with sauteed brussels sprouts and chopped chorizo on a red-brown background.
Nigel Slater’s recipe for brussels sprouts with chorizo. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Mandarins are a winter favourite, but navel oranges are also in their prime, despite their smaller-than-usual size (a result of last year’s cold and wet conditions).

Bigger isn’t better, says Mugavin. “Smaller navel oranges seem to be eating better than the large ones.

“They are juicy, not as tart, and a bit sweeter. We have small ones for about $3 a kilo, and larger ones for $6 to $7.”

In supermarkets, navel oranges are about $3.50 a kilo and will be available through to spring.

Also down in price from last month are apples and pears, at about $4 a kilo.

A peeled mandarin on a cutting board
In June, imperial and afourer mandarins are sweet in flavour and price. Photograph: Huizeng Hu/Getty Images

Mugavin also says persimmons are at their peak and “firm and still sweet” for about $2.50 each in supermarkets.

But berries remain fickle. Raspberries and blueberries are upwards of $5 a punnet, while supply of strawberries is hit and miss. Frugtneit says: “We have new season Queensland strawberries that peak during winter. They will get better and better.”

But there are plenty of fascinating fruits likedragon fruit, papaya, guava and feijoas.

Native to South America and popular in New Zealand, feijoa season lasts a few months – they’re a fruit that Agostino says people are “always excited for.” At the moment they are about $1.50 to $2 each in supermarkets and are perfect eaten as is, or added to this winter apple crumble.

Brussels sprouts
Spring onions


Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries: expensive
Grapes: on their way out