In season mid-spring: Chilli, spring onion, avocado
Those who love chilli will agree — it can be addictive! University of Pennsylvania cultural psychologist Paul Rozin describes eating chilli as a ‘constrained risk’, like riding a roller coaster, where we can experience extreme feelings without any risk of bodily harm — a cheap thrill, in other words.
Cultivated in the Americas for well over 6000 years, chillies are now an established part of many cuisines around the world, and grow in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes and with varying degrees of spiciness. This spiciness (the capsaicin, found in the seeds) is now being investigated for a range of possible health benefits.
Many chilli varieties are grown in New Zealand and can be eaten raw or cooked (the flavour doesn’t change). To lessen the heat, remove the capsaicin-containing seeds from the chilli.
A glass of water won’t help a fiery mouthful either — try a drink of milk (or other dairy product), as capsaicin is fat-soluble.
As a twist, try adding a little chilli to chocolate desserts — it cuts through the richness and tastes good.
Chilli chicken stir-fry
Mexican quinoa salad with lime dressing
Thai-style pork-filled omelettes
Spring onion, along with garlic, chives and other onions, is a member of the allium family, and contains organosulphide compounds not found in other plants. In population studies, higher intakes of these compounds have been associated with a lower risk for cancer.
Versatility is a top quality of spring onions. Oniony and fresh, they add a crisp note and lovely bright colour to countless dishes. They are also stars when it comes to growing them. Harvesting is a cinch — just snip them off at ground level and they will grow again.
The green tops are usually well tolerated by people who have a problem with onions or garlic, or those following a low-FODMAP diet.
Stir-fried curried rice with soft-boiled eggs
Chicken salad Niçoise
The avocado pear, originating in Mexico, is now widely grown in New Zealand. With recent demand outstripping supply, both here and internationally, prices temporarily rose sky-high.
Avocado is high in healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as providing fibre, potassium, iron, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate. Portion size is key: quarter of an avocado has around 450kJ and 2g fibre.
Avocado is something of a celebrity fruit, with its creamy and nutty taste a feature on menus of trendy eateries around the world. Most commonly eaten in guacamole or a salsa, it can also be added to salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and even to some desserts and ice cream. For 26 ‘next level’ ways to use avocado (and to amuse yourself), click here (tagline: It’s not an ingredient, it’s a lifestyle).
Red velvet smoothie bowl
Kumara and courgette fritters with avocado salsa
Smashed black bean, avocado and rocket wrap
Avocado and feta dip