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Excellence in regional produce and producers

Posted on : 01 March 2017

WORDS: Lyndey Milan

This content first appeared in RAS Times March 2010.

Seasonality is something too often forgotten in the city, yet take a walk through your local farmers' market or fruiterer and the produce available loudly declares the season as surely as do the paddocks in the country.

Best of all, eating in season means you pay less and eat better - as long as you stick to Australian food rather than expensive product imported out of season. It also tastes better and is more environmentally sustainable as it has not had to travel.

NSW is blessed with a diverse, if challenging climate, so a huge range is available here from different regions. Farmers are an inventive lot and increasingly we see wonderful value added product. These are judged annually at the Sydney Royal Wine, Cheese & Dairy, Fine Food, Beer & Cider and Chocolate Shows.

A Sydney Royal gold, silver or bronze medal is the consumer's guarantee of quality. Buy products with these badges and the hard work of selecting the best based on an exhaustive criteria has been done for you.

Although Sydney Royal Food judging dates back to the late 19th century, the Fine Food competitions as we now know them had their genesis in 1997. Today they're advancing new forms of agriculture, reflective of modern eating habits.

Noted for its independence and high standards, all products in Sydney Royal competitions must be Australian and, with the exception of the Cheese & Dairy Produce Show, are judged blind. Competitions are split between Summer and Spring Shows according to seasonality. In summer, competitions include coffee, aquaculture and professional bakery while spring is the season for regional food, branded beef, branded lamb, deli meat, pasta and olive oil.

Specialist judging panels comprise diverse experts, for example, winemakers, technical experts, industry professionals, chefs, industry specific media, marketers and educators.

The level of excellence is not compromised or altered from year to year, as medals are not awarded to the 'best products on the day'; rather they go to products that achieve a pre-determined standard. There may be none, or many medals awarded in any given year. Gold Medal products are eligible to progress to be considered for the coveted Champion status.

Competition is fierce and medals so highly regarded, they are not only a reward for hard work, but translate to sales at the checkout.

Now that you are armed with your medal winning wine, fine food or cheese, all you need to create a fabulous meal for your family and friends is seasonal fruit and vegetables.

In autumn  out for new season Bonza, Jonathon and Royal Gala apples, Thompson Seedless and Red Globe grapes, Williams and Beurre Bosc pears, rockmelon, watermelon and sweet pineapple. As the weather cools  you'll also find new season crisp Asian greens such as bok choy or gai lan; snake beans, broccoli, capsicum, snow peas, baby sweetcorn and birdseye chillis are a must for the stir-fry.

Winter is the month for citrus with an abundance of grapefruit, kiwifruit, mandarins and Navel oranges. Wonderful root vegetables, pumpkin, brussels sprouts, fennel and silverbeet are also seasonal favourites and add great flavour to comfort food.

Spring brings peas, artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, leeks, spinach and gorgeous red rhubarb to the table. In summer, add crunch to your recipes with capsicum, celery, cucumbers and snow peas. And of course, those long summer days are perfect to indulge in berries, cherries, melons and stone fruit. Try poached plums with creamy lemon scented yoghurt and nougat with coffee - all medal winners of course!

Happy cooking and eating with Sydney Royal medal winners and the best seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Lyndey Milan OAM

Lyndey Milan was elected to the RAS Council in September 1996. She was founding Chair of the Fine Foods Committee and completed six years as Chair of the Wine Committee. She won Best Food TV in the Gourmand World Awards for her series Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Australia (which features the Sydney Royal Easter Show) and won Best TV Chef Cookbook (in English) for the accompanying book which also took out 3rd place for the Best of the Best in the last 20 years at the Frankfurt Book Fair. She has also recently released her own affordable baking range. Visit www.lyndeymilan.com for more information.